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To debrief or not?

Nikita Joshi, MD |

StopwatchLearners have limited time. Residents have work hours restrictions, practicing physicians have work / life demands, and the list goes on. Time is valuable. Therefore, educational interventions must be hard-hitting, effective, and worthwhile.

We discussed previously “What is debriefing?” Debriefing is a facilitated discussion and reflection about objectives previously chosen by the educator. Dr. Ernest Wang (NorthShore Center for Simulation and Innovation) states that it’s about getting learners to that “aha!” moment.

According to Fanning and Gaba1, deciding when to debrief is twofold:

  1. Do participants lack a sense of closure?
  2. Can we derive useful insights through a discussion of the experience?

Therefore, we debrief to give participants a conclusion to their learning experience, a manner by which to derive conclusions. We also debrief to provide insights as a group that may not be possible to derive as individuals.

Dr. Roger Greenaway is a UK PhD who specializes in training organizations on the benefits of active and experiential learning.  His website has published a list of 10 reasons on why to review (aka debrief).  These are some of the important points:

  • Getting unstuck: Debriefing helps the learner to progress in the cycle of learning and development.
  • Opening new perspectives: Learners can understand complexities in medical management and realize that there is more than one right answer.
  • Developing observational awareness: We all want to become thoughtful and observant physicians able to gather subtle patient clues and condense medical information quickly. Debriefing helps to point out missed clues.

Think of debriefing as a way of accelerating knowledge acquisition and takes learners to the next level. So it is definitely hard hitting!

This is the second of several blog posts on debriefing. Future write ups will discuss the evidence behind debriefing, debriefing techniques, and where to get formal training in debriefing.

Fanning R, Gaba D. The role of debriefing in simulation-based learning. Simul Healthc. 2007;2(2):115-125. [PubMed]

Author information

Nikita Joshi, MD

Nikita Joshi, MD

ALiEM Chief People Officer and Associate Editor
Clinical Instructor
Department of Emergency Medicine
Stanford University

The post To debrief or not? appeared first on ALiEM.

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