5 Tips for Effective Simulation Debriefing From UPMC’s Medical Director of Patient Safety

Dr. Paul Phrampus, Medical Director of UPMC’s Patient Safety Team and Director of the prominent WISER Simulation Center, recently shared on his Simulating Healthcare blog his 5 Tips for Effective Debriefing. The article covers goal identification, initial framework selections, learner engagement strategies, debriefing tactics to maximize learner ownership, and summarization discussions for key takeaways. Dr. Phrampus is also a Co-Founder of the world famous iSim Course which enables him a unique perspective for creating effective debriefing tactics that are a must-know for all simulation champions world wide. Below are Tips 1, 2, and 3 in both text and video form, but you will have to visit Paul’s blog to read tips 4 & 5!

1 – Know What The Goals Are & Be Specific

Too many times simulation scenarios are executed and the faculty member just kind of winging it during the debriefing. It is far more effective a strategy to be keenly aware of what the learning outcomes and goals are prior to the simulation. This will allow you to focus your thoughts and ideas on helping the participants get better during the simulation which can be carried forward to your debriefing efforts. If you are attempting to have the debriefing constrained to the learning objectives for the simulation it is often easier to organize the information and get across the salient points that are needed to achieve the learning outcomes. It is particularly important to remember that you can’t teach everything with every scenario. The participant brain can only take in or process so much information in any one setting. In this case think of a sponge completely saturated with water, that can’t take any more!

2 – Have a Framework Structure in Mind, But Know The Learners Will Change Your Plans

Having a structure to your debriefing ahead of time, or perhaps adopting a model of debriefing can help you significantly overcoming the challenging parts of debriefing. Some of the challenges occur in organizing the information. There are a number of debriefing models out there for consideration of adoption. There is no reason to believe that one is better than the other. I highly recommend that you learn several models and become comfortable with them. What you’ll find is some models work better than others in varying situations based on s number of factors such as the experience and expertise of the debriefer, the subject matter that is the focus of the simulation, as well as the level of the learners.

3 – Involve All the Learners

If you are debriefing a group of students a challenging task can be involving all the learners. Often times there will be one or two learners who engage in a dialogue with the debriefer and without conscious effort and skill it is easy to continue the dialogue and allow the other members of the participating team to feel potentially marginalized. Often times this dialogue occurs with the person that was in the “hot-seat”. Making a conscious effort during the debriefing to include all of the students in a meaningful way can significantly create more learner engagement. Further, if you are running multiple scenarios I believe that engaging all the learners encourages them to pay closer attention if they are in an observation role for subsequent scenarios.


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Read Tips 4 (Pull the Ideas, Don’t Push the Facts) and 5 (Create a Summary of the Take Home Points) on Paul’s Simulating Healthcare Blog through the link below!

About Paul

Dr. Paul E. Phrampus, FACEP FSSH is the Director of the Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education and Research (WISER). He is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology of the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine. He is Vice Chair for Quality and Patient Safety in the Department of Emergency Medicine and Medical Director for Patient Safety at UPMC. Dr. Phrampus has been active in patient safety efforts throughout the UPMC Health System and serves as the Medical Director of Patient Safety. Dr. Phrampus has traveled extensively around the world lecturing and conducting simulation workshops, demonstrations and assisting in proliferation of successful simulation start-up programs. He was the 2013 Past President of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare which has over 3,500 members.

About WISER and for Their Simulation Courses

The Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education, and Research (WISER) is a world class multidisciplinary training and research facility. WISER is an institute of the University of Pittsburgh with a mission to conduct research and training programs utilizing simulation based education to provide a safer environment for patients of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and its affiliates. WISER offers several courses and programs to help those in the simulation community improve their skills. Their iSIM course is offered in various worldwide locations and we have had preceptors from all over the world spend time watching and learning at WISER. Other courses include:

  • Designing or Enhancing Your Simulation Center
  • Facilitator Training Series: Introduction to – Facilitation and Debriefing
  • Laerdal Simulation Installation and Programming How to Run a Successful Simulation Center
  • TechSim for Simulation Technicians

About Paul’s Co-Created “iSim Course”

This 3-day internationally renowned program, created in collaborative effort between WISER at the University of Pittsburgh and the Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education at the University of Miami, is designed as an introduction to fundamental skills and abilities for delivering simulation-based healthcare education through a variety of techniques and technologies. The program emphasizes hands-on activities and active participation to maximize simulation-based instruction skill acquisition. Class group sizes are kept small to allow for maximum participation. The primary audience for this course are healthcare educators wishing to improve their skills as instructors in simulation education. Upcoming Classes are August 13 – 15, 2018 at WISER, Pittsburgh, PA and again October 10 – 12, 2018.

Read Paul’s Full 5 Tips for Debriefing Articles here!

Consider Taking Paul’s Co-Created iSim Course here!

Learn more about WISER and their Courses here!


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