Breaking the Ice

May 14, 2009 § 4 Comments


I usually meet a patient for the first time when I show up to take some photos or shoot a video. The doctor or nurses treating the patient will have informed the patient and asked for his or her permission. But although they have agreed, most patients are a bit nervous of a camera (and yet another person in scrubs) entering into their hospital life. By the time I arrive, ice have formed.

I’m easy to recognize. I like to crop my hair a few millimeters short and I have the names of my two daughters tattooed on my overarms, visible when I wear short-sleeved scrubs. If I’ve been to an OR once, they’ll recognize me the second time, even though I wore a mask. Very handy.

Now, one could think that these visual traits of mine would be a disadvantage when it comes to establishing contact with and gaining a patient’s trust. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Most patients are more or less nervous before a procedure. They often don’t understand exactly what is being done and who of the busy white-dressed people is doing what. I think they often feel like they’re on an assembly line, and they want something human to grab onto. But it’s often hard to reach through the professionalism. I’ve found my tattoos is something to grab onto for people. They’re icebreaker tattoos!

When you see tattooed names, you naturally wonder who’s name it is. And that’s the most common conversation starter in my case. “Is that your girlfriend?” they ask and point at one of my tattoos. “Which one?” I say and show them the other. Laughs. “No, they’re my daughters,” I tell them and then we usually start talking about kids before I explain what I’m gonna take pictures of. They relax.

I’ve never had any negative reactions to my tattoos at work. Maybe human contact is more important.

(photo credit)

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