Physical therapists often have to use their hands frequently throughout the day to manipulate limbs, massage muscles, and assist patients. This leads many to wonder – can physical therapists wear jewelry while working? There are some pros and cons to consider.
Most physical therapists can wear simple jewelry like a watch, modest rings, stud earrings, and necklaces under their clothes. More restrictive jewelry like bracelets, large rings, and dangling earrings may not be allowed for safety reasons. Ultimately, it depends on the workplace dress code and the physical therapist’s specific job duties.
When deciding whether jewelry is appropriate, the main factors to consider are patient and therapist safety. Therapists want to avoid any jewelry that could:
- Get caught on equipment or patients
- Scratch or irritate patients
- Interfere with providing care
- Increase infection risks
- Fall off and get lost in the facility
Certain types of jewelry pose more risks than others:
|Type of Jewelry||Potential Safety Issues|
|Rings||Can scratch patients, harbor germs under stones, or injure fingers if caught|
|Bracelets||Can harbor germs, dangle into workspace, or pinch patients or therapist|
|Necklaces||Can swing into workspace or choke therapist if caught|
|Dangling earrings||Can swing into patients and eyes, get tugged by patients|
Therapists need full dexterity in their hands and wrists to work. Anything that could get in the way or injure the therapist should be avoided. For these reasons, many clinics prohibit dangling jewelry, large rings or bracelets, and long necklaces.
In healthcare settings, infection control is vital. Jewelry can harbor microbes and germs if not cleaned properly. Rings with crevices and stones can be especially prone to holding bacteria.
Most clinics require diligent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer before and after each patient interaction. However, jewelry still poses an increased infection risk. Therapists may be advised to keep jewelry to a minimum or remove it altogether before working.
Work Duties and Environment
The specific work duties and environment will also impact what jewelry is appropriate or allowed:
- Pediatric settings – Dangling jewelry may not be advised around children who could grab it.
- Wound care – Rings should be removed when working around open wounds.
- Surgery – Most surgical settings prohibit all jewelry due to infection risks.
- Ambulatory patients – Bracelets or long necklaces pose tripping hazards.
- Sports therapy – Therapists are active and any jewelry could be hazardous.
Therapists who only treat mature, seated patients may be allowed to wear more jewelry. The environment and activities should always be considered.
Workplace Dress Code
Most rehabilitation clinics and hospitals have specific dress code policies for staff. Therapists should consult their workplace rules regarding jewelry limitations. Places that deliver hands-on care tend to be quite restrictive for safety reasons.
Common workplace policies include:
- No dangling earrings, hoops, or necklaces
- Stud earrings and short necklaces only
- No more than 2 moderate sized rings
- No bracelets or watches during patient care
- Wedding/engagement rings only
- No facial or oral jewelry
Policies are often stricter for operating rooms, wound care, or other high-risk areas. Failure to comply with workplace rules could result in disciplinary action.
Like it or not, patients and colleagues judge therapists by their professionalism and competence. Wearing ostentatious, noisy, or excessive jewelry can undermine a therapist’s professional image.
Ideal jewelry for the clinic is understated and discreet, including:
- A watch
- Small studs for earrings
- Thin necklace under clothing
- Wedding ring
- One additional moderate ring
Hair clips, facial piercings, and noisy bangles don’t portray the professional appearance that builds trust and confidence.
Risk of Loss
The hands-on nature of physical therapy means jewelry often needs to be removed frequently. Therapists are busy and jewelry can easily be lost, damaged, or stolen if taken off and not stored safely.
Expensive or sentimental jewelry is safest left at home. Many therapists choose to wear a simple wedding band and watch, but nothing irreplaceable. Anything worn should have a secure clasp or fastening.
Most physical therapists can wear non-dangling jewelry, as long as it doesn’t interfere with job duties or create hazards. Precautions related to infection control, patient and therapist safety, professional appearance, and risk of loss should be followed.
Small stud earrings, rings, necklaces under clothing, and watches are often permitted. Workplace dress codes may be restrictive, especially for hands-on roles. Therapists should use sound judgment and always put safety first when deciding what jewelry is appropriate for the workplace.
With some common sense precautions, most therapists are able to wear at least minimal jewelry without issue. They can still express themselves through jewelry, while providing safe treatment in a professional environment.