Corr, M., Roulston, G., King, Nigel, Dornan, T., Blease, C. and Gormley, G.J. (2017) Living with ‘melanoma’…for a day: a phenomenological analysis of medical students’ simulated experiences. British Journal of Dermatology. ISSN 0007-0963

Despite the rising incidence of melanoma, medical students have progressively fewer opportunities to encounter patients with this important condition. Curricula tend to attach the greatest value to intellectual forms of learning. Compared to intellectual learning, however, experiential learning affords students deep insights about a condition. Doctors who experience ill health are more empathic towards patients. However opportunities to learn about cancer experientially are limited. Temporary transfer tattoos can simulate the ill health associated with melanoma. We reasoned that, if doctors who have been sick are more empathic, temporarily ‘having’ melanoma might have a similar effect.
Explore the impact of wearing a melanoma tattoo on medical students’ understanding of patienthood and attitudes towards patients with melanoma.
Ten fourth year medical students were recruited to a simulation. They wore a melanoma tattoo for 24 hours and listened to a patient’s account of receiving their diagnosis. Data were captured using audio-diaries and face-to-face interviews, transcribed, and analysed phenomenologically using the template analysis method.
There were four themes: 1) Melanoma simulation: opening up new experiences; 2) Drawing upon past experiences; 3) A transformative introduction to patienthood; 4) Doctors in the making: seeing cancer patients in a new light.
By means of a novel simulation, medical students were introduced to lived experiences of having a melanoma. Such an inexpensive simulation can prompt students to reflect critically on the empathetic care of such patients in the future.

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