The Role of Debriefing within a Simulation Exercise with Undergraduate Nursing Students


  • Fiona Cust Staffordshire University
  • Emily Browne Staffordshire University
  • Rebecca Boden Staffordshire University



Simulation is becoming a very widely used resource within many professions, and can provide different learning experiences within a safe and secure environment. This article focuses upon the medical/nursing profession but may be related to many other fields of practice.

However, it could be argued that without a structured debrief there is little point in running a simulation exercise.  It is widely accepted that debriefing is the most crucial part of any simulation exercise and should therefore be a large part of any simulation-based education. Debriefing should allow the learner to reflect on their own practice as well as that of others, optimising the learner experience. Simulation with the immediate provision of a debrief enhances the learning experience.  

Although recognised, debriefing is not routinely practiced within the theoretical or clinical setting. It is often feedback that is given or mistakenly thought of as debriefing -therefore it is important to acknowledge the difference between feedback and debriefing. To feedback is to give positive constructive criticism or praise to the person or team who have been involved in the simulation by the observer or facilitator, this feedback is based on what they have seen and heard. However, to debrief is to first identify what the participants thought, allowing the discussion to be led by the participant, unpicking the events by first exploring the participants feelings and fixations. These may not have been obvious to the facilitator, the ability to listen and explore the learners experience is key. Without exploring them the learner will not be able to understand and analyse the learning that has taken place.

The aim of this article is to explore whether debriefing is useful, in particular for undergraduate nurses, following a simulation exercise, and if so, why.

Twenty undergraduate child nursing students were randomly allocated into two groups. Both completed a pre participation questionnaire focusing on previous experience of simulation and debriefing and their expectations of simulation, personally and educationally.

Both teams received the same pre brief and orientation to the environment, simulator and equipment.

Group one had a debrief immediately followed by the post participation questionnaire. Group Two were asked to complete the post participation questionnaire first, without any discussion, and then received their debrief after approximately half an hour.

Results were analysed from the post participation questionnaire using a thematic approach. This study demonstrated that, if a debriefing is not carried out, practitioners may be left feeling highly anxious, under confident and stressed – potentially impacting upon their mental health, confidence and self-esteem.

Author Biographies

Fiona Cust, Staffordshire University

Senior Lecturer in Children's Nursing

Emily Browne, Staffordshire University

Senior Lecturer in Patient Safety and Simulation.

Rebecca Boden, Staffordshire University

Lecturer in Children's Nursing.


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How to Cite

Cust, F., Browne, E., & Boden, R. (2020). The Role of Debriefing within a Simulation Exercise with Undergraduate Nursing Students. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 17(1).