March 12, 2024By Erin Carn Bennett

How to Listen Effectively in Healthcare Simulation Debriefing

To listen to participants in all healthcare simulation environments is critical, including presentations, healthcare simulation scenarios or debrief. Listening to a deep and effective level is an incredibly critical skill for anyone who has any involvement in the delivery of clinical simulation. The process to listen deeply rather than to respond can’t be underestimated in terms of power factor for participants in clinical simulation. To feel deeply listened to at times of vulnerability can be incredibly transformative not only for individuals but also teams who attend clinical simulation of any specificity. This article by Erin Carn-Bennett, RN, MSN, will explore how to listen on a deeper level as a person who educates in clinical simulation to improve and enhance the healthcare simulation participants experience.

Be Intentional to Listen at a Deep Level for Clinical Simulation Participants Experiences

Most people will listen to a person who is speaking in order to prepare how to respond. However, the simplicity to pause and to just truly listen to the words spoken and not consider how to reply can be a game changer for clinical simulation educators. As a healthcare simulation educator (particularly in a debrief environment) don’t panic if there is time required to consider how to respond. First slow down and listen to the words spoken by healthcare simulation participants and know the true value that is in this act.

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If time to consider a reply is required, don’t stress. Just as the use of silence is powerful in other places of clinical simulation this moment is no different. If a pause to think is required and this feels uncomfortable there is always the option to be honest and state that a moment is needed to consider a response. Clinical simulation participants would rather know a response is well considered and thought through than the feeling that there has been an interruption to get a point across in a hurry and not be listened to.

What is Heard Can Be Different from Reflections that Have Been Shared

Individuals all hear, interpret and reflect on spoken words in different ways. To hear others’ reflections of their individual experiences can be powerful as these can often be different from what has been observed as an outsider. To truly hear and listen to this process can be powerful for all involved. One of the great powers of healthcare simulation is to experience and learn about other team members’ reflections after clinical simulation scenarios. Deep listening can assist to add further depth to these experiences.

Depth Can Be Applied to Listening Skills with Attention to Body Language

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The intentional use of and also to notice body language while in the process to listen can be incredibly effective within the clinical simulation experience. As a healthcare simulation educator; pay attention to body language at all stages of healthcare simulation for the whole time present with learners. The display of interest with the use of body language can encourage psychological safety and more vulnerability in healthcare simulation by participants.

Examples of the use of body language can include the act of to lean forward to demonstrate interest in the topic of conversation and also an open posture. Open posture tells the person who is speaking that the listener is engaged and open to the topic which is in discussion. A lot of information can be obtained from non verbal cues as to how open the participant is to the conversation. Folded arms and legs are a sign that the individual is closed off to the topic at hand or feedback on their contributions to the conversation.

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As well as body language; be conscious of facial expressions as a clinical simulation educator and take note of the clinical simulation participants’ facial expressions as well. Facial expressions can give a lot of information in regards to the comfort level of the person talking and how information is received and also interpreted. As a clinical simulation educator be mindful of facial expressions as well as to not put off any healthcare simulation participants who are in vulnerable states.

Resist the urge while listening to clinical simulation participants to either interrupt or talk over them. This will make clinical simulation participants feel not listened to and disempowered. Don’t rush to solutions or try to fix people’s problems for them. For the most part individuals want to reflect their own experience out loud and come to their own understanding of the experience. A sacred space within clinical simulation which allows this process as well as to feel deeply listened to, is where the most profound changes to practice, individuals and teams will occur.

Aim to listen to healthcare simulation participants as a clinical simulation educator without any judgment and assumptions of the information which has been shared. Be genuinely curious in questions asked of clinical simulation participants at all times. Don’t be defensive in any way if there is questioning of the clinical simulation experience. Meet individuals where they are and don’t take any actions personally. Allow a psychologically safe container which allows clinical simulation participants to be accepted and listened to.

Check in to ensure the debriefers’ reflections are true and correct to the clinical simulation participant. This will show the clinical simulation participant that them being listened to is of great importance to the clinical simulation educator. This assists to build more psychological safety. This can be as simple as a reflection back to the clinical simulation participant of what has been heard as a debriefer and to make a request for confirmation that this reflection is correct. At every stage of the clinical simulation experience, put the clinical simulation participant at ease as able to through the listening skills that have been shared.

This article has discussed the concept to listen with deep intention in the healthcare simulation environment as a clinical simulation educator. For individuals to make sense of an experience; reflections in particular out loud can be a profound experience. Therefore as a clinical simulation educator; to listen and not interject with a response to a reflection is incredibly important. Although the process to listen to clinical simulation participants may seem incredibly simple, there are always improvements as educators that can be made. Often unconscious communication behaviors can greatly affect how listened to people feel. With intention and attention as clinical simulation educators, clinical simulation participants can leave healthcare simulation with a sense of being heard and reaching new levels of clinical, individual and team practices.

Learn More About Debriefing Best Practices

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