Tattoo trends: Body art expresses medical connections
BY AMBER SMITH
Look around, and you see more artistically painted skin than a few years ago. Tattoos are trendy today.
Marissa Edwards’ tattoo shows the word “hope” with a cancer awareness ribbon to honor her grandmother, who had cancer and motivated Edwards to pursue a nursing career.
The industry is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion in the United States, up 3 percent since 2016, according to IBISWorld, which tracks a variety of industries worldwide.
The AuthorityTattoo.com website cites a poll from 2019 that revealed 30 percent of all Americans have at least one tattoo, up from 21 percent in 2012.
Tattoos are more popular with younger generations, the website writes, because they were taboo in the 1960s and 1970s when today’s parents/grandparents were coming of age.
The group also tells of a survey of the social media site Instagram that showed rose tattoos are the most featured body art, followed by skulls, pop art, birds and text of names or phrases.
Becky Hogle, who took part in a COVID vaccine trial, has a tattoo of a COVID-19 virus looking scared as it receives a dose of the vaccine.
Whatever tattoos are – fashion choice, lifestyle, even memorials – they’ve become a cultural phenomenon.
Glamour magazine recently showcased tattoos especially for women.
The Trend Spotter reports on the best places for women to get inked. (Directly beneath cleavage is a favorite spot.)
And a Netflix series, “Tattoo Redo,” features skilled tattoo artists who remake disastrous tattoos.
On the campus of Upstate Medical University, we found several people with ink that has a medical theme.
Meet seven of them:
A salute to nursing and tradition
Nurse Caitlin M. Nye of Syracuse is a clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing.
She added a tattoo to her upper left arm in 2018 of a nurse wearing a traditional nursing cap.
“Being a nurse and supporting nurses isn’t just my professional role. It’s a big part of my identity,” she says.
“Having a nurse tattoo seemed a fitting tribute to the work I've done and the pride I have in my profession.”
Nye was flattered when someone once told her the nurse on her arm resembled Rosie the Riveter, the character designed to recruit female workers during World War II.
A jab at the coronavirus
Becky Hogle of Kirkville is an administrative assistant in nursing.
Jerica Bonvino’s tattoo reflects her desire to become a respiratory therapist, as well as her fascination with the lungs.
Her tattoo shows the COVID-19 virus looking terrified as a vaccine-filled syringe comes toward it on her upper left arm, where she had a scar from the smallpox vaccine many years ago.
She got the tattoo because she participated in the Pfizer vaccine trial starting in August 2020.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around this when you’re in the midst of it, that this is a historic event,” Hogle says.
A hopeful memory
Nurse practitioner Marissa Edwards of Syracuse works in the Golisano Center for Special Needs.
She added the word “hope,” with the loop in the “h” being a cancer awareness ribbon, to the outside of her foot on World Cancer Day in 2012.
The tattoo honors her grandmother, Delores, who was in treatment for endometrial cancer and was a big motivation for Edwards choosing a nursing career.
“She passed away later that year as the cancer ultimately advanced to her lungs, but I only remember her walking through each day of her fight with humor in her loud and bright laugh, intention in her presence and love for family and girlfriends, and beauty in both her selfless heart and perfectly placed lipstick, always,” Edwards says.
“She never let me forget how proud she was of me for going to nursing school.”
A pretty and proud symbol
Alyssa Bittel of Syracuse is a certified surgical technologist.
Alyssa Bittel shows pride in being a medical professional with a tattoo of a caduceus, a traditional symbol of medicine.
In 2017, she got a watercolor caduceus symbol on her left forearm.
“I wanted something pretty and feminine that resembled the medical field. I got this tattoo six years into being in the medical field, and it’s even more of a symbol of pride today in 2021 after everything we've been through as medical professionals these past 18 months.”
Respiratory therapy student Jerica Bonvino of Auburn has a star of life tattoo on the back of her leg, which she got in 2018 to remind her of her time as an emergency medical technician.
She added this tattoo of lungs in 2020 because she is working toward becoming a respiratory therapist “and the lungs are incredibly fascinating.” She says she has been asked if the lungs really look like they appear in her tattoo. (They do.)
A triple-themed design
Jacquelyn Cox of Nedrow is a licensed practical nurse in the emergency department.
She got a caduceus with her best friend’s initials on her left forearm in 2019.
She loves Greek mythology, and nursing, and her friend who died in 2017 had been her biggest supporter during nursing school.
“I wanted to incorporate the three things that are most important to me into one tattoo,” Cox says.
From the heart and the head
Caitlyn Blumer of Bridgeport is a nurse in the neurological intensive care unit.
Jacquelyn Cox’s tattoo combines a late friend’s initials with a nod to Greek mythology and nursing through an original caduceus design.
Her tattoos are an anatomical heart connected to a willow tree and an anatomical brain.
They are on the outer portion of her left arm and on the inner right bicep.
She got the heart and willow tree in 2016 in honor of her daughter “because everything I do is for her, and the willow tree is her birth tree.”
The anatomical brain was added in 2020 to celebrate her accomplishment of getting through nursing school and landing a position in a neuro ICU while working overnights as a single mom.
An image of a nurse in a traditional nursing cap is one way Caitlin M. Nye shows pride in her personal and professional identity as a nurse. (photo by Robert Mescavage)