Center for Medical Simulation (CMS)

100 First Avenue, Suite 400
Boston, MA 02129-2011
Phone: 617-726-3034
Fax: 617-726-3046
Email: info@harvardmedsim.org
Website: https://www.harvardmedsim.org

Debriefing as defined by CMS

Short Version:

A conversation between two or more people to review a real or simulated event in which participants analyze their actions and reflect on the role of thought processes, psychomotor skills and emotional states to improve or sustain performance in the future.

More Detailed Version:

Reflecting on one's own clinical or professional practice is a crucial step in the experiential learning process. It helps learners develop and integrate insights from direct experience into later action. After participating in a simulated case, debriefing allows clinicians to reflect. Some of the important goals and processes of debriefing or after-action review are to help participants understand, analyze, and synthesize what they thought, felt, and did during the simulation to improve future performance in similar situations. Achieving these goals usually involves a series of steps such as naming and processing emotional reactions, analyzing the social and clinical aspects of the situation, generalizing to everyday experience, and importantly, shaping future action by lessons learned.

For more descriptive information about debriefing, see:

Rudolph JW, Simon R, Raemer DB, Eppich W. Debriefing as formative assessment: closing performance gaps in medical education. Academic Emergency Medicine. 2008;15(11):1110-1116. PMID: 18945231

Tools and Tips for Writing a Debriefing Case

If you are ready to start writing your debriefing case for an advanced debriefing session, click on the links below to download our guidelines for writing a case and for a Microsoft Word template that can help you put your thoughts in order.

For more insight on debriefing cases, check out:

Rudolph JW, Foldy E, Robinson T, Kendall S, Taylor S, Simon R. Helping without harming: The instructor's feedback dilemma in debriefing--A case study. Simulation in Healthcare. 2013:8(5): 304-316. PMID: 24084647