Mary Walls Penney has glorious multi-colored hair, but people she recently encountered while shopping suggested otherwise, questioning whether her colorful tresses are professional. Walls Penney, a nurse, defended her rainbow hair on Facebook, eloquently stating what should be obvious: Your hair color doesn’t affect your ability to take care of people.
In her Facebook post, Walls Penney explains that she recently went shopping after work, and the cashier asked what she does for a living. When Walls Penney said that she’s a nurse, the cashier replied, “I'm surprised they let you work there like that. What do your patients think about your hair?” The cashier then asked an elderly woman nearby what she thought of the hair; the woman responded, “Nothing against you honey, it's just not for me.” Walls Penney claims that the cashier kept going, saying that rainbow hair wouldn’t have been allowed where she’d once worked as a fast food worker and that “she was shocked that a nursing facility would allow that.”
Needless to say, Walls Penney was less than pleased to find her competence as a nurse being questioned because of her hair color. One very basic lesson we can take from this situation is something that I’d hope would go without saying (though clearly it doesn’t): You shouldn’t make negative comments to strangers about their physical appearances. Full stop. (How anyone could think otherwise is beyond me.)
Well, here's my thoughts. I can't recall a time that my hair color has prevented me from providing life saving treatment to one of my patients. My tattoos have never kept them from holding my hand and as they lay frightened and crying because Alzheimer's has stolen their mind. My multiple ear piercings have never interfered with me hearing them reminisce about their better days or listening to them as they express their last wishes. My tongue piercing has never kept me from speaking words of encouragement to a newly diagnosed patient or from comforting a family that is grieving.
She concludes, “So, please explain to me how my appearance, while being paired with my cheerful disposition, servant's heart, and smiling face, has made me unfit to provide nursing care and unable to do my job!”
Walls Penney’s post has struck a chord among readers, racking up nearly 150,000 shares since she posted it on July 9. Among the many commenters are other health professionals who have rocked colorful hair, tattoos, and piercings. One commenter wrote, “I had tattoos when I worked ems and it never stopped me from saving a life. Most of my patients would comment how cute they were.” Another added, “ I am a fellow nurse, and have tattoos, had piercings, and recently started experimenting with different hair color. At no time has it interfered with me providing quality care. I applaud you for being confident in your own skin.”