It's not just your mom who's suspicious of body art: Families of patients in intensive care units said that physicians who don't display piercings or tattoos make a better first impression, according to survey results released Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
In intensive care units, the researchers wrote (subscription required), the stakes are high but patients are unlikely to have a preexisting relationship with their doctors. "Trust needs to be established over a short time frame," they noted, adding that relatives of seriously ill patients often have to be active in medical decision making.
Hoping to assess the effect of physician attire on this complex doctor-patient-family dynamic, the researchers polled 337 family members of patients in three ICUs in Calgary, Canada, from Nov. 1, 2010, to Oct. 31, 2011.
Relatives were asked to use a 5-point scale to rate the importance of 10 factors in an ICU doctor: age, sex, race, neat grooming, facial piercings, visible tattoos, professional dress, white coat, visible name tag and overall first impression. They were also asked to select the best physician from a series of photographs.