What Makes a Great Debrief

Picture of SIM-MT
simulation, debrief
Monday, Jul 24, 2023

If you have been to a simulation training with SIM-MT, you have heard our educators preach the power of the great debrief.  

After running through the training, our simulation specialists take the time to sit down with everyone who participated to get down to the nuts and bolts of what really took place. They often even boast that the debrief is the most important part of the session.  

In this blog, we aim to break down why this part of the session is so vital to the overall success of a clinical team. We also talk about the astronomical impacts it can have on decreasing medical errors in healthcare.

Communication Breakdown 

Debriefing by design is meant to dig into why things happen and explore the effects of what occurs during care for our patients.  

Clinicians aren’t strangers to the fact that often there is no time to discuss a critical case that took place. Something difficult arises on the floor, it’s managed, and then the next patient rolls in.  

This compounds week after week as the cycle continues.  

SIM-MT simulation trainings are built following the most up-to-date clinical guidelines.   Similar cases that happened in “real life” come up in the discussion during a debrief and get analyzed from start to finish. 

The realism of the simulation scenario not only triggers memories from past clinical cases but emotions as well. By hosting a debriefing session after the simulation, pent-up concerns, frustrations, acknowledgments, and insights come pouring out of the learners.  Clarity is often gained and solutions are created.  

Create Space for Psychological Safety

In our trainings, we promote the paramount importance of feeling safe: safe to practice care, safe to make mistakes, and safe to talk about them.  

Research has shown medical error is currently the third major cause of death in the United States. 

One particular study that included a large number of root cause analyses revealed that medical errors are not only attributed to human errors but also to communication gaps

SIMMT opens its training sessions by assuring learners that we are not at their facility to tell them how to practice care but to give them a safe haven to do so.  

Immediately after the simulation itself, our facilitators and our learners go sit in a circle and discuss the case.

Research has shown that it is imperative to host a debrief immediately after a critical event. Partly because it is so fresh in the participants minds but also as it helps to decompress any thoughts, feelings, and emotions brought on by the case. 

By allowing participants to embrace any emotions they may be experiencing and to work through the process in their minds it decreases the likelihood that they will carry the impacts of the case with them for days, weeks, or even years

Barriers to Hosting a Debrief

Some of our participants have noted the following to be barriers to debriefing in their facilities:

  • Lack of staffing
  • Other tasks such as documenting take precedence
  • They have never had a debrief so they have never experienced the benefits of them.
  • No host such as a mental health professional to facilitate
  • Don’t view it as important

Although minimal research has been conducted to show statistical evidence that debriefing improves patient outcomes, a small study was conducted and published in 2013 that showed organizations can improve individual and team performance by approximately 20% to 25% by using properly conducted debriefs.

The question that remains is does simulation training destroy these barriers and create the right space to unpack pent-up questions, emotions, and ideas for better patient outcomes?

We would love to hear your input in the comments below ⬇️