QUALITATIVE AND OUTCOMES RESEARCH

Living with ‘melanoma’ … for a day: a phenomenological analysis of medical students’ simulated experiences

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Article first published online: 26 Jun 2017
DOI: 10.1111/bjd.15402

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Summary

Background

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. However, compared with intellectual learning, 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.

Objectives

To explore the impact of wearing a melanoma tattoo on medical students’ understanding of patienthood and attitudes towards patients with melanoma.

Methods

Ten fourth‐year medical students were recruited to a simulation. They wore a melanoma tattoo for 24 h 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.

Results

There were four themes: (i) melanoma simulation: opening up new experiences; (ii) drawing upon past experiences; (iii) a transformative introduction to patienthood; (iv) doctors in the making: seeing cancer patients in a new light.

Conclusions

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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Supporting Information

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bjd15402-sup-0001-VideoS1.mp4Video S1. Author video.

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