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Helping healthcare teams to debrief effectively: associations of debriefers’ actions and participants’ reflections during team debriefings

Abstract

Background Debriefings help teams learn quickly and treat patients safely. However, many clinicians and educators report to struggle with leading debriefings. Little empirical knowledge on optimal debriefing processes is available. The aim of the study was to evaluate the potential of specific types of debriefer communication to trigger participants’ reflection in debriefings.

Methods In this prospective observational, microanalytic interaction analysis study, we observed clinicians while they participated in healthcare team debriefings following three high-risk anaesthetic scenarios during simulation-based team training. Using the video-recorded debriefings and INTERACT coding software, we applied timed, event-based coding with DE-CODE, a coding scheme for assessing debriefing interactions. We used lag sequential analysis to explore the relationship between what debriefers and participants said. We hypothesised that combining advocacy (ie, stating an observation followed by an opinion) with an open-ended question would be associated with participants’ verbalisation of a mental model as a particular form of reflection.

Results The 50 debriefings with overall 114 participants had a mean duration of 49.35 min (SD=8.89 min) and included 18 486 behavioural transitions. We detected significant behavioural linkages from debriefers’ observation to debriefers’ opinion (z=9.85, p<0.001), from opinion to debriefers’ open-ended question (z=9.52, p<0.001) and from open-ended question to participants’ mental model (z=7.41, p<0.001), supporting our hypothesis. Furthermore, participants shared mental models after debriefers paraphrased their statements and asked specific questions but not after debriefers appreciated their actions without asking any follow-up questions. Participants also triggered reflection among themselves, particularly by sharing personal anecdotes.

Conclusion When debriefers pair their observations and opinions with open-ended questions, paraphrase participants’ statements and ask specific questions, they help participants reflect during debriefings.

  • continuous quality improvement
  • crew resource management
  • human factors
  • medical education

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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