Intended for healthcare professionals


How to make the most out of your dermatology placement

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 01 July 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o1258
  1. Anisha Bandyopadhyay, foundation year 1 doctor1,
  2. Khawar Hussain, specialist registrar in dermatology2
  1. 1Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, Dartford, Kent, UK
  2. 2Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  1. Correspondence to: anisha.bandyopadhyay{at}

Dermatology is the study of skin, hair, and nails—the skin being the largest organ of the human body. With more than 2000 conditions included in the specialty of dermatology, unsurprisingly dermatological diseases are the most common presentations in general practice.1 Dermatology overlaps with most medical and surgical specialties because skin, hair, and nails can provide helpful clues to diagnoses in paediatrics, ophthalmology, plastic surgery, and ear, nose, and throat, as well as in psychiatry, given the massive psychological impact skin conditions can have on mental health. Medical students need to be competent in basic dermatological skills regardless of their future specialty.

Undergraduate training provides limited exposure to dermatology,2 with the average placement for just one week.3 If you are fortunate to have a dermatology placement during medical school, you should optimise your time and prepare for diverse learning environments such as wards, surgical theatres, and clinics, both generalised and specialised.

This article aims to guide students on what to expect and how to prepare for, and make the most out of, a dermatology placement.

Before placement

Time and experience are needed to develop a good knowledge of the breadth and depth of dermatology. An understanding of normal skin physiology is important to appreciate what happens when skin becomes diseased. Before a placement begins, revise the anatomy of the skin and adnexa and familiarise yourself with common conditions (box 1). This will solidify your learning and maximise your ability to participate during clinical discussions with dermatologists. Make sure you are comfortable with how to obtain a dermatological focused history, perform an examination, and communicate the findings (box 2).

Box 1

Dermatological conditions and categories

  • Inflammatory

    • Atopic eczema, acne vulgaris, psoriasis

  • Infections and infestations

    • Cellulitis, tinea and candida, herpes zoster and herpes simplex, scabies

  • Immunobullous conditions

    • Bullous pemphigoid, pemphigus vulgaris,

  • Dermatological emergencies

    • Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal …

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