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

M. Corr, G. Roulston, Nigel King, T. Dornan, C. Blease, G.j. Gormley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


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.

To 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 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.

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.

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-778
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


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