Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. Susan Dean-Baar, PhD, RN, CENP, FAAN


Dr. Roxanne Vandermause, PhD, RN

Dr. Julie Bertram, PhD, RN

Dr. Anne Austin, PhD


This study aimed to update dated research by exploring the relationships between patients with body art (tattoos and body piercings) and their interaction with health care providers. This creates a current description of the body art patient’s health care experience. Previous research indicates that body art has been associated with risk taking and deviant behaviors and these behaviors have been used to justify why people with body art are negatively perceived. If the presence of body art and the associated behavior are viewed as a threat to normalcy, then Stangor and Crandall’s theory (2000) suggests that stigma may surround the body art population. Health care providers may have developed attitudes perceived by this population if stigma does exist. A descriptive phenomenological methodology was used to explore the perception of the lived experience of the body art patient. Participants who had body art and who had interactions with the health care providers were interviewed using open-ended semi-structured questions. To ensure trustworthiness the interviews were analyzed using Colaizzi’s (1978) method. Interviews occurred with 12 participants, with two overarching themes and three essences within each theme discovered. All described their tattoos as a deeply personal artistic representation of who they are and all shared they felt stigma, the two overarching themes. Even though health care access and quality were not affected, several participants stated having negative experiences with health care providers that they perceived were related to their body art. The findings suggest that the body art patient’s health care experience may be enhanced with provider recognition that an individual’s body art is both deeply meaningful and an important form of identity.

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