December 8, 2023By Erin Carn Bennett

Why Does Curiosity Matter in Clinical Simulation?

Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know and learn. As a clinical simulation debriefer, an essential skill is to remain curious and to remove any assumptions or judgments. For the purpose of this article, the focus will be on curiosity about another person’s behavior in the healthcare simulation debrief environment. To excel in this critical skill will foster psychological safety in the debrief circle. Curiosity is not a desire to focus on complex thoughts but, instead, a drive to discover that which is the unknown. Curiosity is like a muscle that can atrophy without intentional use. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, MSN, RN, will explore curiosity’s relation to clinical simulation debrief and education from both clinical simulation faculty and participant perspectives.

Research Has Found Curiosity Has Different Types

Curiosity is what allows debriefers to guide clinical simulation participants to reflect and share their individual experiences and transform their clinical practice in the process within the debrief environment. Curiosity is a placement of emphasis on the clinical simulation participants’ experience instead of the faculty. Curiosity is to park ego and to truly display emotional intelligence towards others in a conscious manner. Research has categorized curiosity, as Ian Leslie describes in the book “Curious”.Diversive curiosity is a type of curiosity that drives the desire to explore novel subjects. Diversive curiosity is the impulse that drives people to consume media, for example, but this doesn’t engage people to partake in a deeper exploration. Diversive curiosity is curiosity on a surface level. Diversive curiosity is a great starting point as a clinical simulation debriefer. However, there are different types of curiosity that have more depth and can further enhance learning capabilities for both faculty debriefer and clinical simulation participants.

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Empathetic curiosity is to be curious about the thoughts and emotions of others. Empathetic curiosity is to truly use empathy and place ourselves in the shoes of another person and their experiences or thoughts. Empathetic curiosity is a highly regarded skill as a clinical simulation debriefer. As an empathetic and curious clinical simulation debriefer, this will make clinical simulation participants feel more psychologically safe to share their true emotions in the debrief environment. Empathy is as vital when used in a clinical simulation debrief as judgment and assumptions struggle to be present alongside empathy and genuine curiosity.

Epistemic curiosity is a depth to the simple concept of curiosity to seek new information and is then directed into an attempt to build understanding and knowledge. Epistemic curiosity ideally should be cultivated in faculty and in clinical simulation participants. Epistemic curiosity ensures that assumptions and judgment are parked to explore and learn what has occurred for clinical simulation participants from their perspective. Epistemic curiosity places the clinical simulation participant at the forefront of their experience in clinical simulation. Epistemic curiosity lowers hierarchy (actual or perceived) within the clinical simulation debrief environment.

How to Use and Be Curiosity As A Debriefer

To be a curious debriefer for clinical simulation is to not make assumptions about the clinical simulation participants’ experience. The purpose of curiosity as a debriefer is to not assume participants’ experience and to ask relevant questions about the clinical simulation participants’ experience in the scenario from their personal perspective. Being curious in this manner will allow the participants to reflect with conversational guidance on what has happened in the clinical simulation scenario through the clinical simulation participants’ frame of mind.

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As a curious clinical simulation debriefer, actions in the debrief circle may include the use of questions that encourage participants to share by making them feel psychologically safe. To be a curious debriefer is to not assume anything of any participants and to continue to ask questions to gather information in a non-judgemental and empathetic manner. Often from action within a clinical simulation scenario, each participant may have a very individual perspective of actions that have occurred as a collective team.

Curious and non-judgemental questions allow for individual perspectives to be voiced, which can also reduce assumptions between participants from the clinical simulation scenario. Reduction of assumptions can be helpful to build team relationships through empathy and awareness of a variety of perspectives that are voiced. When clinical simulation participants are given a safe space to voice their perspectives, most of the depth of knowledge acquisition can occur between participants when they can understand the complex tasks and cognitive overload that their colleagues were involved in, and they may have had no idea at the time.

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Emotional Intelligence Fosters a Curious Mindset

Emotional intelligence is an incredibly important skill for clinical simulation debriefers to harness and have awareness of. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of one’s emotions, control of their emotions, and to also foster interpersonal skills with the use of emotionally intelligent skills such as empathy. Emotional intelligence skill sets link strongly to the ability to ask curious and nonjudgemental debrief questions to clinical simulation participants as a debriefer. As a clinical simulation debriefer, a desire to learn emotional intelligence skills and to reflect on communication skills is essential in the quest to improve and progress as a member of the clinical simulation faculty.

Despite what debrief modality is used to debrief a clinical simulation scenario, a curious mindset and outlook as a debriefer is essential to ensure the psychological safety of clinical simulation participants. Curiosity has been found to have a number of different types. In this article, diversive, empathetic, and epistemic curiosity has been explained, discussed, and linked to application in clinical simulation practice. Curiosity allows individual voices to be heard and for teams to deepen their bond through the opportunity to hear the voice of their team members’ perspectives, which may differ from their own perspective.

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  • Leslie, I. (2014). Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it. Basic Books.

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