December 1, 2023By Erin Carn Bennett

Considerations as a Guest Faculty Debriefer in Medical Simulation

Clinical simulation debriefing sessions are often performed and experienced in the clinical location of the clinical simulation debriefer’s expertise. However, a clinical simulation debriefer may sometimes be invited to perform a clinical simulation scenario debrief in an area other than their usual clinical expertise or knowledge. A guest debriefer is an incredibly powerful and useful role for all involved in clinical simulation when done in a psychologically safe and curious manner. A guest debriefer is defined for the purpose of this article as a debriefer that is debriefing in an area that is outside of their usual area to debrief in or usual clinical area of expertise. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, RN, MSN, will explore suggestions and provide support to tackle the role of a guest debriefer in a clinical area that differs from the clinical simulation debriefer’s usual expertise.

Establish Psychological Safety

As with all clinical simulations, psychological safety is incredibly important, particularly for the guest debriefer in this environment. The role of guest debriefer can be utilized to the full advantage of the clinical simulation participants. The establishment of trust through psychological safety can be achieved through simple gestures such as a clear timetable and expectations for the clinical simulation participants, which appeals to the adult learner. Trust can also be established with the clinical simulation participants by a demonstration of vulnerability in the introduction phase of the clinical simulation scenario or course. Explanation of years of experience clinically and usual area of practice will assist to build credibility as well as how long involved in clinical simulation-based education. Clarity around the role of a guest debriefer and not usually being clinically based in the clinical environment where the clinical simulation will assist participants to build trust in the guest debriefer. There is also some merit in a statement such as this experience is a learning experience for the guest debriefer and the clinical simulation participants.

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Utilize the Perspective of Being an Outsider

As a guest debriefer, there are many benefits both within the role and for clinical simulation participants. When debriefing in a clinical area that is not a usual clinical space for the debriefer, genuine curiosity is required in questions for the clinical simulation participants. As a senior healthcare worker who debriefs in their local area, there may be many assumptions in play, which can be both conscious and unconscious, as to why clinical simulation staff have done clinical tasks in a certain manner. As a guest debriefer, there is a distinct lack of these assumptions due to not usually practicing in this clinical environment. Therefore, when asking about an action of clinical simulation staff, this can be done with genuine interest and curiosity rather than judgment more easily.

A guest debriefer has a completely new lens on a clinical simulation scenario than an area’s senior healthcare staff. This new lens may pick up on events and objects that are yet to be seen in clinical practice or clinical simulation scenarios. These may include environmental barriers or enablers, process and procedural barriers and enablers, or interpersonal and human factors subjects of interest. Due to a lack of pre-existing bias with the clinical staff, a guest debriefer will notice these with potentially more clarity and be poised in a better position to tackle more difficult subjects.

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Without pre-existing bias as a guest debriefer, there may be more empowerment or just genuine interest to ask questions about difficult interactions or actions that have occurred within the clinical simulation scenario. The use of strategies such as normalization in relation to the experiences of the guest debriefer in their career can assist to foster psychological safety and trust. Other statements to normalize, such as: “This is an action often seen very commonly in clinical simulation and is an action that many people struggle with,” can also help if the guest debriefer has decided to tackle a particularly difficult debrief question.

How to Prepare to be a Clinical Simulation Guest Debriefer

As a guest faculty debriefer, preparation to debrief is still essential when debriefing in a clinical area that is not of usual clinical knowledge. Role clarity for faculty in the clinical simulation scenario or course and within the debrief circle is essential. The guest debriefer should also have a local expert alongside them in the debrief circle to answer any local clinical or specialized clinical inquiries within the debrief.

However, the guest debriefer should still research and gain knowledge in regard to the proposed clinical simulation scenarios prior to the clinical simulation. This knowledge can be gained through internet searches and links with the local experts within the clinical area. Speak with other clinical simulation faculty members who have debriefed the clinical simulation cases previously to understand how the clinical simulation scenario has run previously.

Clarity around learning objectives for the clinical simulation scenario and potential paths that participants will take is essential in preparation. A basic knowledge of what tasks should be performed and why will also aid in the debrief.

As a guest debriefer, be genuine in the questions asked and own any errors made if mistakes are made. All clinical simulation faculty are human, which can happen even as a local expert. Be genuine that as a guest debriefer, there is learning that occurs for faculty, too, and discuss what is of interest to the participants. Relation to clinical experiences in the local area of the guest debriefer will assist to build trust and connection between the debriefer and clinical simulation participants. Enjoy the experience as a guest debriefer and also share with the participants any lessons learned to take back from the guest debriefer experience to the area of usual expertise.

The role of a guest debriefer can be an incredibly powerful experience for both the local clinical simulation participants and the guest debriefer who attends the clinical simulation scenario or course. This article has given suggestions for those in clinical simulation educator roles with the opportunity to tackle the role of a guest debriefer with some strategies and tools to aid them. Don’t undervalue the guest debriefer role in clinical simulation-based education. For clinical simulation programs that are yet to explore the experience of guest debriefers, this article may highlight some potentiality for this role in their clinical simulation program in the future.

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