Melanoma tattoos: a simple technique helping doctors develop empathy with patients

Source: The Conversation, July 2017

Competency is not the only thing you want from your doctor. Compassion and empathy are also requirements of the job. But with increasing demands and pressures in healthcare, it may not always be the case that you receive it. And empathy, which has long interested researchers, is not necessarily an innate emotional skill for all.

Those that train future doctors are challenged to find new and improved ways of developing the empathetic care provided to patients. One way of doing this is by using simulation techniques that allow students to experience some of the effects that illness can have on their patients.

This might include wearing specialised suits, headphones or glasses that recreate some of the physical and sensory challenges that older patients often face, such as visual impairment due to cataracts, high-frequency hearing loss, reduced mobility and joint stiffness from arthritis. This kind of experiential learning – which more broadly might include medical students following a diabetic diet for a week to understand some of the challenges faced by newly diagnosed patients – can foster meaningful insights and have a positive effect on how these soon-to-be doctors relate to patients in the future.

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