Nurse Mary Walls Penney rocking her rainbow hair. (Photo: Facebook/Mary Walls Penney)
Twenty years ago, employees in professional fields often had to forgo things like tattoos, piercings, and primary colored hair, or at least hide them in the workplace. But now that these once “extreme” trends are becoming mainstream, we’re seeing more people expressing themselves through their personal style at work.
But not everyone is a fan. Nurse Mary Walls Penney, whose hair is stunningly dyed in an array of My Little Pony pinks, purples, blues, and greens, found out recently that not everyone internalized that grade school lesson that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Walls Penney, who specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment, was picking up a few things at a convenience store after work on July 9 when the cashier decided to confront her about her appearance. Walls Penney posted about the encounter on Facebook, which has been shared more than 140,000 times, along with a selfie in which her rainbow hair looks quite fetching with her pink stethoscope.
She explained that while checking out, the cashier looked at her name tag and asked, “So what do you do there?” Walls Penney replied she was a nurse. The cashier responded, “I’m surprised they let you work there like that. What do your patients think about your hair?”
The cashier then proceeded to ask the next woman in line to weigh in on Walls Penny’s appearance, adding that they didn’t allow “that sort of thing,” even when she had worked fast food. Walls Penney’s touching response is as follows:
“I can’t recall a time that my hair color has prevented me from providing lifesaving 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 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.”
Several other medical professionals weighed in on Walls Penney’s original post, with comments reiterating that an untraditional appearance doesn’t affect your ability to care for others, such as “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,” and, “Piercings, half sleeve, purple hair, gages and a chest dermal, also in the medical field, dare to be different girl!”
Another commenter wrote, “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. I am sure you’re an excellent nurse.”
One commenter, who identifies herself as a former nursing home director, added that her own 86-year-old mother “would love” Walls Penney.
The colorful nurse says on her Facebook page that she doesn’t “do negativity,” and it seems her outward appearance is an expression of her bright personality. We’re guessing both brighten up her patients’ lives.