Tattoos and Physical Therapy: A View on Body Art in the Healthcare Setting

Carlo Saul, Class of 2023

In today’s world, tattoos are more common than ever but there is a lingering sense of taboo around tattooed individuals in physical therapy and the healthcare field in general. As a professional, one is expected to look a certain, clean type of way. This stereotype does not include tattoos as they are still associated with lawlessness and impurity. Growing up, I also viewed tattoos in this light, but this all changed as I went through my undergraduate years.

Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of being a healthcare professional. My science background is ingrained with a dichotomous mindset of right and wrong, whether it was through multiple choice exams, lab skills, or clinical practice guidelines. As my undergraduate career ended, I felt trapped in a box based on objectivity. This is when I found comfort in the subjective nature of the art of tattooing. In the tattoo world, there are endless possibilities as there are countless styles, placements, subjects, and color palettes that one can choose from.

As I pondered in my academic box, I reflected on the way I viewed myself. I grew up with an intrinsic shame of my body weight. I never viewed myself as attractive or appealing to others. This is a dynamic mindset that is rooted in my socioeconomic status, single parent household, health illiteracy, and lack of consistent exercise and healthy eating. After graduating from undergrad at the age of 22, I decided to take control. I was unemployed as I was looking for a physical therapy tech position, so out of boredom, I joined a local gym. My weight started dropping and I started to feel stronger, more energetic, and started to take pride in my progress. There was this new sense of confidence as I saw the scales go down and weights get heavier. This was the first time I felt genuine control of my body.

This newfound control expanded to self-expression through tattoos. It started off with memorial tattoos to honor loved ones who had passed away. It then progressed to telling my personal story whether it was nods to my Filipino-American culture, NBA basketball, or even just appreciation for the work of tattoo artists that I love. The beauty of tattoos is that there is no one right way of getting them. Whether it is a collection of different styles, a small hidden tattoo, or entire body suit, one has freedom to express themselves. This does not mean everyone needs a tattoo as that freedom of expression is aligned with choosing to not get tattooed as well.

When applying to physical therapy schools, only one website had pictures of students or faculty with tattoos. As a tattooed individual, minority, and three years out of school, I felt stress, anxiety, and loneliness. In my applications, I did not mention tattoos and kept my sleeves rolled down during interviews. Two years later and in my second year as a Doctor of Physical Therapy Student of Regis University, I could not feel any more differently as over 49% of my current cohort have tattoos. My classmates and faculty have never made me feel self-conscious, ashamed, or any lesser because of my tattoos. I share a sense of storytelling, individualism, and pride with my tattooed peers.

The sense of autonomy and control that I feel with my tattooed body draws parallels to the patient experience in physical therapy. A part of being tattooed is sharing a piece of myself without words, thus being vulnerable to others. Vulnerability and acceptance are two key components of a proficient physical therapist-patient experience. Gone are the days of cookie-cutter style treatments, as plans of care are individualized to the specifics of each patient. This means granting patient autonomy and influence on their care, just as I have through the ink on my skin.

Tattoos are not a mark of knowledge or proficiency as a health care provider. Judge me on my character. Judge me on my clinical reasoning. Judge me on my critical thinking. Judge me on my bedside manner, my professionalism, my empathy, my commitment to learning, on my sincerity. Do not judge that my body is colored outside the lines. I vow to accept my patients as the individuals they are. Hopefully they can do the same and view my tattoos as an expression of my personal story, not a mark of wickedness. Just like physical therapy, tattoo collecting is a lifelong learning process. May the ink on my skin be as strong as the ink on my Doctor of Physical Therapy diploma.

May the ink on my skin be as strong as the ink on my Doctor of Physical Therapy diploma.

– Carlo Saul

Thank you to everyone from the Class of 2023 who shared a little bit of themselves for this.

Interview FAQ for the Incoming Class of 2020

Now that we’re nearing the end of January, interview weekend is almost upon us! I can’t wait to meet this year’s prospective students, and I know everyone else in our Regis DPT community is excited as well.

For everyone about to interview, I know the next few days can be stressful to say the least.  If anyone is having trouble ignoring that nagging fear of bombing the interview and never being accepted anywhere, I was in the exact same boat last year! I know the nerves are hard to shake, but looking back, that was an unrealistic fear and there was really no reason to worry. I got the sense that everyone at Regis wanted me to feel welcome and comfortable, and I hope everyone this year feels the same way. My interview at Regis ended up being fun and exciting—and it put some of my worries at ease.

I’ve gotten some questions from prospective students, so Carol, Lindsay (the Class of 2018 and 2017 admissions representatives) and I compiled these answers to some of the most repeated inquiries.  I hope this helps you assuage any concerns you may have!

Q: Should I bring anything to the interview (pen, portfolio, resume, notepad, etc.)?

A: No need to bring anything. You will receive a folder and pen, information about Regis, and a water bottle.  Of course, you’re welcome to bring your own paper and pen, but there’s no need.  Some people like having a notepad to jot down questions for the faculty or interesting things they learned throughout the day, but it is completely your own preference.

Q: Are there any questions that stumped you or caught you off guard? What types of interview questions should I expect?

A: Though I don’t remember specific questions, I do remember the feeling I got from the interviews. It seemed like a fluid conversation. In other words, I did not feel like I was being drilled with questions at all.  I really mean it when I say to be yourself as much as you can be. Regis is unique in the fact that they really look for people’s character during the interview, rather than solely admitting people for grades and GRE scores. When the faculty asks you questions, they are not seeking a right or wrong answer. They are seeking to learn who YOU are and how you communicate.

Q: What should I expect from the group interview format?

A: The group interview will consist of 2 faculty members and 3 candidates. It is set up to be a fluid, facilitated discussion.

Q: What will the whole day be like?

A: Everyone will go through five different “stations,” so to speak. You will have your interview, a campus tour, a chance to ask current students your questions, a skills lab observation in one of our classes, and an anatomy lab presentation. The whole interview day will conclude with lunch. You’ll also stick with the same student-led tour group between each part of your day, so you’ll have plenty of time to get to know the student ambassadors and ask them questions.

Q: How can I prepare for the interview?

A: Some advice is to look at the Regis website and see where the values of Regis fit into your life and how you can express that during interviews.  It is also a good idea to do a little bit of reading about our faculty on the website to learn about the work or research they do so that you can ask them any additional questions.  If you do feel stumped at any point, don’t be afraid to take a minute to gather your thoughts because they appreciate that a lot more than a made-up answer. It also helped me to look up some common PT school/traditional interview questions and brainstorm answers. If you can have some solid examples on your experiences, you’ll be able to adapt to wherever the conversation goes. Finally, make sure you research the topics you’ve been given ahead of time so you can prepare and get your thoughts together.

Q: Is there a chance to meet current students?

A: YES! You will have multiple opportunities to interact with various students throughout your day. Also, from 4:30-6:30pm on both interview days, we will have a meet-and-greet off campus for candidates to meet with current students. I hope to see you all there! That being said, this is by no means mandatory and your attendance will not affect your admission to the program.

Q: What should I wear?

A: I would err on the side of business formal. Most men typically wear matching pants and jacket, a button-up collared shirt, and a tie, while most women wear slacks or a dress skirt, a blazer, and a blouse. Cropped dress pants would work too, and if dresses are your thing, go for it. It is really important that you feel comfortable in whatever you end up wearing! That being said, when it comes to shoes, heels are great, but as long as you’re really comfortable in them. Flats are perfectly fine—in fact fact, if you opt to wear heels, I would bring a pair of flats along with you so you can change into them while you go on your campus tour. Also make sure to bring a jacket in case it’s cold (you never know with CO weather!)—there will be a coat rack available to everyone to store your belongings while you are inside.

Best of luck, interviewees! Feel free to reach out if you have anymore questions. Looking forward to meeting you!

Kelsie, Carol and Lindsay

 Colorado is awesome! We can’t wait for you all to experience it.

 All photos were taken from past blog posts and are pictures from current students’ experiences.

Regis DPT gear sale: order before October 30th!

It’s that time of the year: the fall clothing order is here! The Class of 2018 will take orders until October 30th, so now is the time to get your Regis DPT swag.

http://regisdpt.wixsite.com/clothingorder/shop

We have water bottles, wine glasses, hats, shirts and sweaters that will all be emblazoned with the Regis DPT logo upon ordering.  Whether you’re preparing for the winter season or looking for gift ideas, we recommend you check out the list and order before October 30th!

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Crash Course: How to Dress for PT School

The dreaded dress code! Our student handbook says:

As future health care professionals, graduate students in physical therapy are expected to dress in a manner that exemplifies professionalism during class, during on campus activities, and in clinical situations.

As scary as that sounds, it’s really not so bad. There is no need to run out and buy all new clothes! (Unless you only wear yoga pants and track suits. I mean–respect for that, but gotta keep if profesh now). There are tons of ways to make clothing you already have work.

Let’s go over some of the big things:

  • Plain t-shirts are definitely okay. Shirts with logos or writing are not (unless it is the Regis PT logo!).
  • There will be a Regis PT clothing order in the fall! The bookstore only has one thing that says “physical therapy” on it, so don’t worry about buying that–wait for the clothing order!  Items purchased from the clothing order can be worn to class.
  • Buying a lot of basics that you can mix and match is a really good idea. If you have a few pairs of good pants, a variety of colored tops, and good shoes, you can make dozens of outfits. Scarves and jewelry can always be used to accessorize and liven things up.

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Basic Ts, pants and skirts are all recommended!

  • Shoes must have backstraps! Things like Chacos or Tevas are fine, but they need to have a backstrap.
  • Invest in some quality shoes. Sneakers are allowed in the dress code, and you are going to be wearing them a lot. Find some that give you good support, but can also look okay with your class clothes.
  • The main lecture hall—you’ll come to know and love it intimately—can go from freezing to a sauna within 15 minutes. Having layers to put on or take off is always a good idea.
  • You’ll notice that the dress code mentions things like facial piercings, odd hair colors, and tattoos. While I wouldn’t recommend getting 7 facial piercings and 4 new tattoos, this isn’t something to worry about! Many members of the current student body have tattoos and facial piercings; that being said, keep this in mind when finding clothing for class.  It’s okay to have them showing in lab, but try your hardest to keep them covered for lecture.
  • Lab clothes are generally exercise clothes. If you only have one pair of running shorts/leggings, this might be the time to get a couple more. You will wear these clothes a lot!  You are expected to bring your lab and professional clothes to switch between classes, but you all will have lockers if you want to keep clothes on campus.

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    Here’s the Class of 2018 intramural soccer team modeling some great lab clothing examples!

  • For anatomy lab, most people wore scrubs or sweats. Whatever you wear, do not plan on wearing it ever again. The scent of the lab will never leave.

What it really comes down to is this: how do you want to present yourself to your classmates and professors? If khakis, sneakers, and a solid color t-shirt are your comfort zone, awesome! If it’s a skirt and blouse, great! If there’s a collar, lovely! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to change your entire style. Wait and see what you find yourself wearing to class and what you find comfortable, and do your shopping after school has started.

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Carol, Nolan, and Courtney showing off their professional attire

Keep in mind that this is the clothing you’ll be using when on clinical rotations and at conferences—think about what will make you be the most comfortable and professional clinician possible.

Finally, my classmate, Cameron, wants you all to know that Crocs do count.

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Maroon pants aren’t required, but are strongly encouraged for photo ops like this.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at msutton001@regis.edu!

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