Body Modifications on Patients and Providers | The Change of Shift Podcast recap Ep 11

What an awesome podcast! We stepped away from our norm and decided to explore a somewhat non-traditional (in more ways than one) topic and discuss body modifications with two professionals in the field of tattooing and piercing.

Sonya Grenell, tattoo artist and co-owner of LightTouch Tattoo in Big Rapids, Michigan and James Raimar, owner, body piercer, and scarification artist at HoleyBody at Old TownTattoo in Saginaw, Michigan, joined us to discuss the medical implications of treating patients with tattoos, piercings and other body modifications.

Some quick facts about body modification:
-It includes a wide range of personal decisions and cultures.

-The definition encompasses everything from tattoos to breast implants to circumcisions to pierced ears to foot binding to branding.

Statistics on Tattoos

Statistics on Body Piercing

Throughout the conversation, a few major points were made by both Sonya and James.

The first is as healthcare providers we need to be better educated on the implications of both tattoos and piercings. We need to know how to remove jewelry in an emergency, where to look for piercings and the cost of those small pieces of metal (body jewelry is expensive so don’t lose it!).

The second is that tattoos are very expensive pieces of unique artwork. Sonya has multiple clients with ruined artwork from uncaring health care providers/surgeons who did a hack job with their suture lines. We need to be aware of the time and money associated with tattoos and that our patients must live with the ruined hack jobs of those who sew them up poorly either from inexperience or because the provider just doesn’t give a shit. Trust me, I have seen purposeful judgement on the side of the health care provider lead to disfigured tattoos.

[Personal note: Being one with thousands of dollars and at least a hundred hours of tattoos, this ineptitude would crush me. I understand the emergency aspect and difficulty of suturing, but if possible, please care for my art and my skin.]

Third, piercings and tattoos require a significant amount of care to heal well and complications are usually related to the client’s lack of vigilance in hand washing, or exposing the modified area to inappropriate things (like chemicals, soaps, etc). When issues arise and we see the tattoo artist’s or piercer’s client in our area of expertise, they are very willing to be contacted for information about what we are seeing. They have pierced and tattooed thousands of clients, and we should respect their knowledge and experience. James even mentioned being called into a clinical office to remove or modify jewelry.

Tattoo the day of completion
Tattoo the day of completion

Fourth, allergies to tattoo inks are extremely rare. With permission, Sonya passed on the following photographs for us to share. These include what an ink allergic reaction appears like, the aftermath of a skin graft and the solution she arrived at with her client.

Day two--Allergy presents
Day two–Allergy presents








Post Skin Graft with non-allergy blue ink portion intact
Post Skin Graft with non-allergy blue ink portion intact

Want more education? The Association of Professional Piercers offers FREE registration to any health care provider interested in attending their annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.  They also have a number of incredible resources on their website. In addition, here is a somewhat outdated, but solid article on Medscape written in 2005 about body piercing.

During our hour on Blab, we also discussed the perceptions of health care providers being the ones who are tattooed and pierced. This is always a controversial subject and one which we believe will evolve over time as the majority of those pierced reach an age in which they are part of the majority in leadership and management positions.

Again, we would like to thank James and Sonya for taking the time to be part of our podcast. With professionals like you both, the link between health care professionals and your area of expertise will be stronger in the long run.


What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter!

Thanks again for tuning in and always remember . . .

. . .Check your OWN pulse first!

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