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Nursing home nurse inundated with support after she was criticised for her appearance

Mary Walls Penney's Facebook post has been viewed over half a million times, after she was criticised for her rainbow hair dye
rainbow

A nursing home nurse who was confronted about her appearance has hit back on social media, earning hundreds of thousands of likes and messages of support.

Nurse Mary Walls Penney, who works with patients who have Alzheimers and dementia, has colourful rainbow dyed hair, along with multiple piercings and tattoos.

She wrote a Facebook post defending her appearance after being criticised during an outing to a supermarket. While paying for her shopping, the cashier spotted her work badge and asked her what she did at the nursing home.

When Ms Walls Penney said she was a nurse, the cashier responded: Im surprised they let you work there like that. She went on to comment that she was shocked a nursing facility would allow that.

A nursing home nurse who was confronted about her appearance has hit back on social media, earning hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’ and messages of support.


Ms Walls Penney’s post proved so popular that
she was interviewed in the media across the US. Picture: Facebook

Nurse Mary Walls Penney, who works with patients who have Alzheimer’s and dementia, has colourful rainbow dyed hair, along with multiple piercings and tattoos.

She wrote a Facebook post defending her appearance after being criticised during an outing to a supermarket. While paying for her shopping, the cashier spotted her work badge and asked her what she did at the nursing home.

When Ms Walls Penney said she was a nurse, the cashier responded: ‘I’m surprised they let you work there like that.’ She went on to comment that she was shocked a nursing facility ‘would allow that’.

Post goes viral

At the time Ms Walls Penney, who lives in West Virginia, United States, smiled at the cashier and told her that her patients did not seem to mind. She then went home and reflected on the comment in a Facebook post that has now been viewed 500,000 times.

Her post read: ‘I can’t recall a time that my hair colour has prevented me from providing the life-saving treatment to one of my patients. My tattoos have never kept them from holding my hand 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 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.

UK nurse support

‘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.’

Ms Walls Penney’s post proved so popular that she was interviewed in the media across the US including the Today programme.

On Nursing Standard's Facebook page, Ms Walls Penney’s story gained support from UK nurses.

Stephen Taylor commented: ‘The reality is we live in a more multicultural, multiclass, multi-artistic, multi-expressional world than we did 30 years ago. Different patients will relate to different types of nurses respectively.

Individual patients, individual nurses

‘The idea that the entire public want all nurses to look like the images of days gone by is delusional. There will be some people that think well-pressed uniforms and polished shoes really matter.

'Others will feel more comfortable with a nurse who is less starched in appearance. If, as a profession, we are to constantly remind nurses that patients are individuals, then it is illogical to assume there is only one type of nurse that suits everyone.'

Twitterchat

Nursing Standard will be discussing the issue of appearance on its #NScomment Twitterchat on 13 October between 1-2pm.

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