BMC Emergency Medicine (2020-10-01)

Interdisciplinary clinical debriefing in the emergency department: an observational study of learning topics and outcomes

  • Andrew Coggins,
  • Aaron De Los Santos,
  • Ramez Zaklama,
  • Margaret Murphy

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 20, no. 1
pp. 1 – 10


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Abstract Background Defined as a ‘guided reflective learning conversation’, ‘debriefing’ is most often undertaken in small groups following healthcare simulation training. Clinical debriefing (CD) following experiences in the working environment has the potential to enhance learning and improve performance. Methods Prior to the study, a literature review was completed resulting in a standardised approach to CD that was used for training faculty. A pilot study of CD (n = 10) was then performed to derive a list of discussion topics and optimise the faculty training. The resulting debriefing approach was based on the “S.T.O.P.” structure (Summarise the case; Things that went well; Opportunities for improvement; Points of action). A debriefing aid, with suggested scripting, was provided. A subsequent observational study assessed CD within 1-h of clinical events. ‘Significantly distressing’ or ‘violent’ events were excluded. Data was collected on participant characteristics, discussion topics, and team recommendations. Study forms were non-identifiable. Subsequent analysis was performed by two investigators using content analysis of the debriefing forms (n = 71). Discussion topics (learning points) were coded using a modified version of the Promoting Excellence and Reflective Learning in Simulation (PEARLS) framework. One month after completion of the study, ED management staff were surveyed for reports of “harm” as the result of CD. Results During the study period, 71 CDs were recorded with a total of 506 participants. Mean debriefing length was 10.93 min (SD 5.6). Mean attendance was 7.13 (SD 3.3) participants. CD topics discussed were divided into ‘plus’ (well-done) and ‘delta’ (need to improve) groupings. 232 plus domains were recorded of which 195 (84.1%) aligned with the PEARLS debriefing framework, suggesting simulation debriefing skills may be translatable to a clinical setting. Topics discussed outside the PEARLS framework included family issues, patient outcome and environmental factors. CD reports led to preventative interventions for equipment problems and to changes in existing protocols. There were no recorded incidents of participant harm resulting from CD. Conclusions Topics discussed in CD predominantly aligned to those commonly observed in simulation-based medical education. Collective recommendations from CD can be used as evidence for improving existing protocols and models of care.