BOISE 2018!

This year, I got tFishhe chance to return to the Boise NLN simulation conference, hosted by Boise State University. This is my third time here. Added bonus: I was a presenter! Such an exciting opportunity.   I presented the findings of my principle-based concept analysis of prebriefing, which I shared here.

I brought along some of my co-workers from the hospital, too. I was nervous they might not find anything interesting, but the program contained a variety of sessions and a few that applied to nursing residencies and other more general topics.

I was a bit nervous about my presentation, too. Mostly that no one would show  up because… well a concept analysis?? How boring! OK! So that didn’t happen. Most of the room was full! Then I worried the topic would not be as interesting to them as it was to me. But luckily again! Most people were engaged, and during the break out/discussion session as I wandered the room, people were excited to think and discuss research ideas for prebriefing. Finally I had about a dozen folks who were interested in getting a copy of my slides and references!   (click  if you want to see them!). I was worried I’d go over on time, and I did cut it a bit too close (and went over by a few minutes), but the group participation was worth it.

I will admit I have been looking forward to getting to speak and share at conferences for a long time. I had found I was reaching a saturation point at sim conferences, where I felt it was time for me to start contributing. So I am super excited that I had this opportunity to share. And while it’s not as comfortable for me as teaching in front of a class, speaking in front of 40 people who are a different level was not as scary as I expected.

I am also realizing how much I miss  being hands-on with simulation. While I am working with my team at Valley to add more sim activities and interactive learning in general to our educational materials, I do miss the challenge and reward of navigating learners through the realistic experiences of simulation and facilitating their learning through an effective debrief session.

Simulation takes deliberate practice, with mindful planning,  action  and evaluation. I am glad to see how far we’ve come in nursing with this learning tool. I am sad to see we are still finding under supported teams, often single faculty, trying to provide a high quality experience- at risk of burn out and potential eventual deterioration of quality… I do hope academic institutions will finally figure out how to appropriately compensate simulation educators and provide them the resources necessary to provide simulation that will give students those critical learning opportunities they are not getting in clinical.

We will see…


It’s getting real now, y’all

It is not enough to know what you want to research or even your theoretical framework, you must also know- what you want to do, how you want to conduct the research.

So I finished my course work last semester. This semester I took a seminar class to prepare for my prelim. In my program the prelim exam is not an actual test, but a presentation of your proposal (chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the dissertation), in which you are grilled by faculty and students and of course your committee. I am nowhere near ready for that, as I am just beginning to figure out what I want to do.

And I am way overdue with an update here. It has been a bit of a journey to get here. In summer 2014, I started this program with pretty much no idea what I was going to research, but knowing something related to nursing education. I bounced around and explored a variety of topics- from nursing faculty’s informatics competency, to student’s activities on the internet (that was a fun foray into the world of digital ethnography), and slowly moved towards simulation, settling on prebriefing (PB). It is not enough to know what you want to research or even your theoretical framework, you must also know- what you want to dohow you want to conduct the research. Which has been my challenge.

I have been frozen in a way because I could not come up with a plan that seemed feasible. Thinking of experimental research is overwhelming. There are no ready-made data sets collected that I can access, and while it is a good thing that the literature in PB is rather limited (leaving me room to do some work), it also means there is a lack of examples to follow.

It was also challenging that my program had gone through changes, my committee has pretty much dissolved except for one stalwart member who has stood the test of time.  I struggled to articulate my thoughts in a way that could present a reasonable proposal. My committee might not be experts in my topic, but they must understand it and its importance. Through some reflection and the support of a mentor who has done work in the area of PB, I was able to put together a plan and share it in the form of my “elevator speech”:

Prebriefing is considered an important aspect of simulation design, however, there are no theory-based models available for nurse educators to use when developing simulation learning experiences for their students. My research goal is to design and pilot test a simulation prebriefing model based on cognitive load principles which will increase germane load and manage the limited working memory of nursing students who participate in simulation learning experiences. Using a revised version of a cognitive load measurement tool which has been previously used with nursing students in simulation, I will compare the cognitive load of nursing students who receive the cognitive load theory based model of prebriefing to those who receive a conventional prebriefing. In addition, I will do some reliability testing of the revised tool.

 Now I am working to turn this into a chapter one. I already realize my problem statement, aims and research questions are still weak and scattered. I hesitate to commit as I am just not sure how I will operationalize this plan. Will I take over a sim lab somewhere and allow students to come and let me try my intervention (theory based prebrief) out on them, and compare their scores on a cognitive load survey? That’s what I imagine, but then my brain freaks out as I think of the logistics. It may be too much.

But I am counting on the expertise of my committee to guide me to something reasonable and not too far away from what I am looking at. I have spend a lot of time thinking about this topic, reading and learning the theory and collecting literature. Talking with my expert in the topic has also helped.

I am aiming to have my first 3 chapters done by end of fall 2018/early spring 2019 and defend my proposal sometime in Spring Semester 2019.  Depending on how I collect my data and what that looks like, I might be on track to defend my final dissertation by fall 2020. While it won’t be “before I turn 50” as I had hoped, it will be while I am “still 50” which is totally OK!

I sort of remember nursing school

Another assignment that I figured would be nice to share here.

The book I am referencing is

Benner, P. E., Sutphen, M., Leonard, V., & Day, L. (2010). Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Educating Nurses was published 10 years after I graduated, yet my experience has similarities to the descriptions in the book.  In all honesty, it is tricky to reflect back on my undergrad without the bias of my own experience as a nurse educator. In fact, much of my motivation to study nursing education and become well versed in it was a result of my perception of my own educational experience- and my continued assessment of the state of nursing education while working as a full-time faculty in ADN and RN-BSN programs.

I went to nursing school at a private Baptist college in Texas., University of Mary-Hardin Baylor (UMHB). I was not Baptist, but it was the closest BSN program. I already had my AA in English and Music and when I decided to study nursing instead, I figured I should get my bachelors instead of another associate’s degree.

I took pre-req courses from a variety of community colleges- from Kentucky, Oklahoma, California and Texas. I was the ultimate transfer student. I took more than I needed because I did not what program I would apply to (or where I was going to live even- Army life) so I went in with a very solid foundation.  I think I only took one or two non-nursing classes at UMHB. Instead I had transcripts from 5 different schools. And I was a nontraditional student in that I was in my late 20s with two small children and my husband was active duty army.

So, with all that, my only goal in that program was to get done. I came in with a lot of pathophysiology knowledge (I used to read the Merck Manual as a teenager for fun) and a solid science- and liberal arts background. There was not as much of a crunch of content into our brains as things were more spread out over the curriculum. That’s in contrast to the ADN program I taught at- that concept that nursing education is additive is SO true, every year it seemed we added more material and never felt like we could let things go.  As a student in my BSN program, we did have mostly lecture (overheads not powerpoints!) and multiple choice exams. And usually one written assignment per semester. That was how the diadatic content was covered.

My favorite class was our senior leadership class, I think the instructor enjoyed teaching it also. She had an MBA and marched to her own drum. And it was not “life or death” content, so she could have fun with it- it was very much applied knowledge- teaching presentation (I made overhead slides!), a change project on our assigned units (mine was developing a policy about whose responsibility it was to change out full sharps containers). Overall there were other elements presented in the book that occurred in my program: team teaching, heavy emphasis on the NANDA diagnoses and all the crazy strict rules about how to write a nursing diagnosis, lots of sage on the stage style lecturing and the occasional game to make things interesting.

My clinical is even harder to recollect. I was not paying attention to how I was being taught and I was kind of on survival mode most of the time (my husband was deployed to Korea my entire senior year). How much my instructors took time to question me and help me find learning opportunities was completely lost on me. I showed up exhausted from staying up late, after my small children went to bed, making my drug cards and getting up way too early. I honestly cannot remember a single post conference. I have a blur of a few key moments- putting a foley in a small child, who they thought had Kawasaki disease and she had a terrible rash all over her peri area, yet no one guided me to consider NOT putting iodine on that raw tender skin. Now I know I could have used soap and water.  I got in big trouble taking a Dr. up on his invitation to observe a circumcision during my OB rotation- I still have no idea why it upset my instructor so much. That was one of those clinicals where our hands were tied and all we could do is observe anyhow! There was some bullying by faculty in that program for sure, but also some kind and compassionate instructors. I also struggled with feeling comfortable taking care of patients and asking them all the questions on our assessment paperwork. They were so tired, miserable and in pain. And I was supposed to ask them about their sex life? Finally, I have a distinct memory of working up a sweat while trying to put TED hose on a knee replacement patient. That was most likely because of the terrible, hot, impractical, polyester uniform, complete with purple apron, we had to wear.

I spent most of my clinicals feeling terrified and unsure of what I was doing. The instructors overall (with a few exceptions) were kind and supportive. I think some of my anxiety stemmed from the fact that while I had a great deal of knowledge, I had very little patient care skill or experience. And our lab experience was dismal to say the least. This was pre-simulators and we did not even have mannikins to practice on. The only hands on practicing we had was assessment on each other (in our sports bras, with the 2 boys in the class sent to another room) and injections – of saline into our thighs.  Everything else was talked about and we hoped to get a chance to see it in action and maybe try it out.  I went into nursing terrified of doing any skills… and eventually became a skills lab instructor. What a way to face my fears!

So reading Benner’s book, I mostly find myself going, “yup, seen that, did that, still do that” when they discuss some of the challenges in nursing education. I think my own experiences as a nursing student were what drove my obsession with giving my students a good solid lab experience, yet balanced by understanding I could teach them everything and allowing some things to fall away for other things to move in (for example no longer testing trach care in exchange for some informatics content).

Beginnings of a concept analysis

This principle-based concept analysis aims to examine prebriefing, a component of simulation in nursing education.

As an assignment for my nursing theory class, we had to complete a principle-based concept analysis. I felt like I mostly had no idea what I was doing, but it did really help me understand my topic better and begin to see the gaps, conflicts and lay the foundation for my literature review. I have gotten feedback that implies this could be turned into something I could submit to a journal. So this should be considered only a draft version that I am sharing here. Please respect the ownership of my ideas. Thank you.


In 2004, Gaba described simulation as a “technique…to replace or amplify real experiences with guided experiences that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive manner” (p. 12). This definition continues to be referenced as the most accurate description of simulation in health care (Alexander et al., 2015). Simulation is now considered to be an integral part of nursing education programs and has its own standards of best practice and a body of research evidence that supports its effectiveness (Jeffries, 2016; Lavoie & Clarke, 2017).
This principle-based concept analysis aims to examine prebriefing, a component of simulation in nursing education. Prebriefing is considered an essential element of simulation design (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016c). The International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL) Standards of Best Practice: Simulation SM define prebriefing broadly as “an information or orientation session immediately prior to the start of a Simulation Based Experience in which instructions or preparatory information is given to the participants.” (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016b, p. S43)
The definition also includes an emphasis on the role of prebriefing to provide a psychologically safe environment for learners (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016b). Despite this standard definition, prebriefing as a concept appears varied in the literature. Many educators will provide an orientation to the equipment and the space and process of simulation, but provide little information about the scenario itself, while other educators refer to preparation in the form of care planning, written assignments and role modeling as prebriefing (Page-cutrara, 2014a). There is also lack of consensus regarding how much information to provide to the participants about the simulation in this phase (Page-cutrara, 2014a). Unlike debriefing, which has a strong body of literature describing its best practices, theory, and framework, prebriefing is just beginning to appear as its own topic in the simulation literature. It lacks a well-defined framework and is considered a top priority research topic in nursing simulation (Fey & Chse, 2016; The International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning, 2017).
This principle-based concept analysis is based on a review of the current state of the science of prebrief as reflected in the current literature. The “Search IT” function of Washington State University’s (WSU) Library searches the entire WSU library catalog in a variety of disciplines. This search tool found the following number of results for each term and combination of terms used: “prebrief” (102) “prebrief nursing simulation (34)”, “pre-brief, simulation (47) and “prebrief, nursing, simulation, education (232)”. Combinations of these terms, along with alternative terms such as “healthcare” provided similar results. Applying non-nursing and non- healthcare filters, yielded a small number of findings in the following disciplines: aircraft safety (8) and military (9), of which approximately half were duplicates. The most useful search strategy used the Boolean “AND” with the terms “prebrief”, “nursing”, “simulation”, “education” which yielded a total of 47 articles and dissertations. Of these, based on title and review of the abstract, about 13 were relevant to prebriefing in nursing education and simulation.
Searching the multidisciplinary literature in this way provides an expanded range of results, however, in this analysis prebriefing is a concept specific to simulation in nursing education. Since simulation is a specialized field in healthcare education, another approach used was to search the two peer reviewed journals that are dedicated to simulation in healthcare: Clinical Simulation in Nursing and Simulation in Healthcare. Focusing on these specific journals reduces the need to for additional terms such as “nursing education” or “healthcare education”. A search of the term “prebrief’ yielded 78 results and “pre-brief” yielded 387 results from Clinical Simulation in Nursing. Searching Simulation in Healthcare for “pre-brief” and “prebrief” only yielded 4 results, but the term “briefing” provided 80 results. These results were then narrowed down by title and abstract content and provided the published resources used in this analysis.
It is important to note that in 2016, two concept analyses of prebriefing were published. Neither author used the principle-based concept analysis approach, but both did acknowledge a gap in the literature regarding the standardization of prebriefing practices and the use of the term (Chamberlain, 2015; Page-Cutrara, 2014b). This principle based approach intends to explore the use of prebriefing in simulation literature from a different perspective by exploring it within four principles: epistemological, pragmatic, linguistic and logical (Penrod & Hupcey, 2005).
Epistemological Principle
The concept of prebriefing continues to mature epistemologically and develop its own distinction within the knowledge base of simulation (Penrod & Hupcey, 2005). The term was introduced and defined 2011, when INACSL published the first version of the Standards of Best Practice in Simulation (Sando, Faragher, Boese, & Decker, 2011). In those 2011 Standards, prebriefing was defined in Standard I: Terminology as an information session held before the simulation that provides instructions, preparatory information, and orientation to equipment (The INASCL Board of Directors, 2011).
In the next version of the Standards in 2013, prebriefing was defined similarly and was also included in Standard IV: Facilitation, under Criterion 1, as a facilitation method that occurs before the simulation and includes orientation to the equipment, ground rules to provide a psychologically safe environment, expectations, and background information on the scenario (Franklin et al., 2013) . In 2015, the Standards Committee added two additional standards. One of these was the Design Standard, which introduced prebriefing as “briefing” in Criterion 7 (Lioce et al., 2015). Participant preparation was delineated from the orientation aspects of briefing in Criterion 10: Participant Preparation (Lioce et al., 2015). This is the first mention of providing content-related activities to prepare the learner for the simulation in addition to the logistical orientation of (pre)briefing in the Standards.
In the most recent iteration, published in 2016, the Committee returned to the term “prebriefing”. Prebriefing and participant preparation are again addressed in two separate criterion of the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM Simulation Design Standard (the Standards Committee has removed the numbering of standards and now include a servicemark designation). Criterion 7 describes prebriefing as a required orientation phase of simulation, similar to its early definition (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016c). It is described as a structured and consistent element of simulation that includes orientation to equipment, space, time and other logistical aspects of the simulation (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016c). In addition, behavior expectations, establishing trust and ground rules, and a fiction contract are also part of the prebriefing. Criterion 10 addresses participant preparation, however it is not considered a phase in the simulation itself. It is discussed in the standard after the debrief and evaluation phases, as if an afterthought to the process. Its placement there is strategic, as the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM Simulation Design standard recommends that the preparatory materials are developed after the simulation is designed. Criterion 10 states that the preparatory materials aim to “address the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that will be expected of the participants during the simulation-based experience” (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016c, p. S8). These materials should be completed prior to the prebriefing and may include didactic sessions, reading, concept maps, quizzes, and other activities that will enable the learner to be successful at meeting the simulation outcomes (Boese et al., 2013; INACSL Standards Committee, 2016c).
The 2016 version of the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM Facilitation brings preparation and prebriefing together in Criterion 3 (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016a). This Criterion is the most descriptive and proscriptive in regards to prebriefing and participant preparation thus far. In this Criterion there a directive to ensure participants have completed preparatory materials and an expansion of the content of prebriefing to include a minimum of six elements (INACSL Standards Committee, 2016a).
It would appear that, conceptually, prebriefing is a logistical part of the simulation based on these descriptions and represents a time to assure participants of their psychological safety; develop familiarity with the equipment; and clarify roles, rules, and expectations. Participant preparation for simulation, including assignments, reading, and didactic content, is considered a separate phase and aspect of simulation design and facilitation. However, this is reflected in the most recent literature. For example, in a 2017 study that looked at the impact of prebriefing on the performance of participants, the prebriefing was “… structured by concept mapping-type activities and guided reflection” (Page-Cutrara & Turk, 2017, p. 78). Another example is Chamberlain’s (2017) comparison of four different combinations of preparation for simulation, of which there were two preparation activities, both referred to as prebriefing: learning engagement and orientation. In their evaluation of the state of the science of anxiety in simulation, Shearer (2016) refers to the role of “preparation” in addressing the “Unknown” in simulation. The author states, “the use of standard practice in regard to preparation may assist the student to achieve the best possible outcome” (Shearer, 2016, p. 553), identifying a need for a standard preparation practice which is not specifically described as prebriefing. This lack of distinction between prebriefing and participant preparation is pervasive in the literature and demonstrates a lack of maturity in the concept.
Pragmatic Principle
This inconsistency between the standard-based description of the concept of prebriefing and its manifestations in the literature present a pragmatic challenge as the concept is identified by experts in a variety of ways (Penrod & Hupcey, 2005). In 2016, the same year the current INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM were published, McDermott published a Delphi study that reviewed the concept of prebriefing with simulation experts. According to this study, clear consensus is still lacking as to what exactly prebriefing is; however, the experts described prebriefing as having three phases: planning, briefing, and facilitating (McDermott, 2016). The planning phase is when learning activities are provided to prepare the participant. To these experts, participant preparation is not considered a separate element of the simulation, but an early phase of prebriefing (McDermott, 2016).
Another example of a deviation from the standard definition of prebriefing as orientation only is the use of role-modeling as a prebriefing technique. Multiple studies have used forms of expert role modeling as simulation preparation: some refer to the intervention as part of the prebriefing, while others make no mention of prebriefing but include the role modeling intervention as part of the orientation phase of the simulation (Anderson, LeFlore, & Anderson, 2013; Aronson, Glynn, & Squires, 2013; Coram, 2016; Johnson et al., 2012; Stockert et al., 2015).
Linguistic Principle
The terms prebriefing, brief, pre-simulation preparation, pre-scenario work, preparatory activity and orientation appear in the literature referring to the preparatory activities that occur before a simulation experience (Chamberlain, 2015, 2017; Page-Cutrara, 2015; Tyerman, Luctkar-Flude, Graham, Coffey, & Olsen-Lynch, 2016). Of these terms, linguistically, prebriefing is consistently context bound to the activities that occur in the period preceding the simulation scenario (Penrod & Hupcey, 2005).
Many articles mention prebriefing when describing the activities that occur before the simulation scenario used in a study. In a study using a medication safety simulation, the authors state, “all students received standardized prebriefing, including objectives, case overview, and preparatory work. The preparation included readings and review questions. In addition, students were oriented to their surroundings and given the opportunity to ask questions” (Mariani, Ross, Paparella, & Allen, 2017, p. 213). Another example is less descriptive but placed the prebriefing before the scenario, “learners in both types of simulations received a standard prebriefing” (Luctkar-Flude, Wilson-Keates, Tyerman, Larocque, & Brown, 2017, p. 266). Some authors do separate the preparatory work from the prebriefing orientation in their descriptions, yet it still occurs in the context before the scenario. For example, in a study comparing the sequencing of simulation and hospital based experiences, the authors stated, “activities… included orientation to the simulation room and manikin, prebriefing, a prequiz, the patient care scenario, and debriefing” (Woda, Gruenke, Alt-Gehrman, & Hansen, 2016, p. 530). While there is a lack of consensus in the literature as to what specific components comprise prebriefing, conceptually it is a component of the activities occurring prior to the simulation scenario.
Logical Principle
Prebriefing is an element in many teaching and learning theories as they are applied, pedagogically, to simulation. Within these theories, prebriefing — whether it is orientation or other activities — remains clear as a concept of preparation (Penrod & Hupcey, 2005). Much like simulation in general as a pedagogical modality, prebriefing fits conceptually into many learning theories as such as Kolb’s Experiential Learning theory, adult learning theory, Bandura’s Social-Cognitive theory, situated cognition, cognitive load theory, brain-based education, and constructivist theories in the role of preparation to facilitate learning (Bethards, 2014; Cardoza, 2011; Clapper, 2015; Kaakinen & Arwood, 2009; Onda, 2012; Paige & Daley, 2009; Poore, Cullen, & Schaar, 2014; Zigmont, Kappus, & Sudikoff, 2011).
Cognitive load theory is an excellent example. In this theory, the concept of prebriefing is an essential element that can diminish the learner’s extraneous cognitive load, establish prerequisite knowledge and allow the learning experience of simulation to be committed to the learner’s working memory (Fraser, Ayres, & Sweller, 2015). Prebriefing provides orientation to the environment and equipment, establishes psychological safety, and increases the learning capacity of the participant by decreasing anxiety about the situation and distraction (Fraser et al., 2015; Hessler & Henderson, 2013; Janzen et al., 2016; Josephsen, 2015; Reedy, 2015; Rudolph, Raemer, & Simon, 2014). As a preparatory activity, prebriefing fits nicely into the framework of cognitive load theory.
This principle-based concept analysis shows that prebriefing is context bound to the time period preceding simulation scenarios and is clear as a concept in many learning theories; however, it is not yet a distinct concept in the literature, nor does it manifest itself consistently. References to prebriefing in the literature blur the line between prebriefing and participant preparation. The goal of future research on prebriefing should be to unify these elements and expand the concept of prebriefing beyond orientation and into a theory driven, structured process that takes into account the needs of the nursing student as a learner acting in the role of novice nurse in simulation. Adopting McDermott’s (2016) expert-generated idea of phases of prebriefing unites preparation with prebriefing and allows for the development of a phase-based, structured framework that would establish psychological safety, decrease anxiety and extraneous cognitive load, and increase learner engagement with prerequisite knowledge.

References (Apologies: not properly formatted in any way)
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Appendix A
The following is a proposed theoretical framework based on this concept analysis integrates the three domains of learning into three phases of preparation:

The preparatory phase (cognitive domain) where learners prepare by learning about the content they will encounter in the simulation. They may review pathophysiology or medications, or develop concept maps or care plans for their simulated patients. They will be accountable for this prep work. This phase allows the learner to develop a foundation on which to build their learning in the scenario.

The orientation phase (psychomotor) which allows the learners to experiment hands-on with equipment or examine the space the simulation will occur and become familiar with it. In this phase, they may review skills that may be required in the simulation whether it is auscultation of the manikin or insertion of a foley catheter. This phase allows the learner to gain some comfort and eliminate distractions so they can focus on their higher-level actions and decisions in the scenario.

The prebriefing phase (affective) where the facilitators review the expectations, elements of psychological safety, fiction contract, the process of debriefing and other aspects that will provide a safe and respectful learning environment for the participants. This phase is intended to help alleviate the learner’s anxiety going into the simulation and give them a sense of self-efficacy.





To be Honest …

I am working on a concept analysis of prebriefing. It’s a thing you do as part of your research anyhow, and it’s for a class (of course). But I am getting a lot out of it. Much like my  last post that talked about my why for this topic, I am now seeing my what– as in what do I want to do in this topic?

I have said before, I want to lay the ground work for a framework for prebriefing, much like there is for debriefing (there are many, in fact). As I review this literature, I am beginning to form an idea, and I need to write it down here. Bear in mind, I am brainstorming, so I am not citing all the great minds who have come before me in this field. But I will say there are a few names who pop up regularly in prebriefing- and as a baby novice researcher, I’d like to connect with at some  point:

Donna S. McDermott, PhD, RN, CHSE

Karin Page-Cutrara, PhD RN

Jill Chamberlain, PhD RN

Anyhow back to me.

I think that while I might only be aiming to gather survey data about prebriefing (and participant preparation) practices in prelicensure nursing programs, I have a larger goal if I continue in research and in this field. I see that prebriefing is finally getting research attention. And while the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM continue to separate out the concepts of prebriefing and participant preparation, we need to move to a more integrated framework for the activities that take place before the simulation.

Once I collect data about what educators are actually doing in their simulations, I feel I can make the following proposal:

Best Practice is not just what everyone is doing,  but sometimes what everyone is doing (especially in a field that is young, yet well established like simulation) might be a good starting point. I think we need to develop a framework that is supported by the experts, learning theories and the reality of practice to structure the elements of prebriefing. It must be more than an orientation or a speech about “safe space” It should be in phases. Each phase addresses a learning domain.

The preparatory phase (cognitive domain) where learners prepare by learning about the the content they will encounter in the simulation. They may review pathophysiology or medications. Or develop concept maps or care plans for their simulated patients. They will be accountable for this prep work. This phase allows the learner to develop a foundation on which to build their learning in the scenario.

The orientation phase (psychomotor) which allows the learners to hands on experiment with equipment, or examine the space the simulation will occur and become familiar with it. In this phase, they may even review skills that may be required in the simulation whether it is auscultation of the mannikin or insertion of a foley catheter. This phase allows the learner to gain some comfort and eliminate distractions so they can focus on their higher level actions and decisions in the scenario.

The prebriefing phase (affective) where the facilitators reviews the expectations,  elements of psychological safety, fiction contract, the process of debriefing and other aspects that will provide a safe and respectful learning environment for the participants.  This phase is intended to help alleviate the learner’s anxiety going into the simulation and give them a sense of self-efficacy.


Yeah so, that’s my idea.


Why Pre-Briefing???

Pre-briefing is a crucial element of simulation which allows students to have a learning experience that is both valuable and retained.

I have been reflecting on my research interest. I had to do a discussion board posting in one of my classes that addresses my research phenomenon and concept. In that I reflected on what led to my interest in this topic. I realized is was borne out of my experiences with simulation. Observing the impact of preparation for simulation on students, and their response to the experience. Also, I am driven by my passion as an educator to shake up the traditional culture of nursing education which I have observed to be punitive and rarely student centered.  Simulation  is an opportunity for nursing education to move from behaviorist approaches to more constructivist and humanist approaches.

Pre-briefing is a crucial element of simulation which allows students to have a learning experience that is both valuable and retained. Much like care planning allows a nursing student the opportunity to prepare and plan out the interventions and care they will provide to their patients based on the patient’s own needs, a structured and comprehensive pre-briefing gives the nursing student the tools to interact in a simulation while focusing on the clinical decision making and clinical judgment aspects of nursing practice.  With good preparation, the use of clinical judgement and clinical decision making become the focus of the learning objectives of the scenario.

Simulation is the one safe environment where nursing students can bring together and act on the three domains of learning: cognitive, psychomotor and affective. For nursing students, traditionally cognitive learning occurs in their theory classes, memorizing lab values, symptoms of disease and medication side effects, assigning nursing interventions to disease and pathophysiology. Psychomotor learning happens in a skills lab setting, practicing invasive skills repeatedly on simple low fidelity manikins and task trainers. The clinical setting only affords the student the opportunity to observe clinical decision making, to shadow the clinical judgment of the nurse they follow. They have some opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in theory class and lab, but the limitation of their role as students does not give them the freedom to make clinical decisions and follow through with their impact.  Only in simulation does the nursing student get to “practice nursing” in all its aspects. They bring the cognitive and psychomotor to a simulated patient while applying the affective learning domain to the clinical decisions and judgements they make in the simulation.

Because of the unique benefit of simulation to nursing students, it is crucial it is implemented in a way that is thoughtful and mindful of its effect on students. Anxious and uncertain students who feel ambushed by the experience miss out on a rich learning opportunity. Debrief in those situations focuses on their feelings about the simulation (fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and lack of confidence), not the process of clinical decision making, the rationale behind decisions and actions and the management of consequences. Their memory of sim lab will be negative and associated with stress, dread and anxiety. These are all barriers to the learning process, meeting the objectives of the scenario and retention of the intended learning outcomes.

Simulation is an experiential learning process and preparation is an essential element of that approach Preparing students in a mindful way, one that is clear about the objectives, goals and expectations of the scenario affords the student tools to approach the scenario focused on the clinical decision making process and their own use of clinical judgement. They come out feeling confident, able to apply the lessons learned in the scenario to their future practice and non-judgmentally reflective of their own behaviors.

This is based on my own observations as a simulation instructor/facilitator of over 7 years, my knowledge of the simulation literature, my understanding of teaching/learning theories and anecdotal evidence from simulation peers. My own teaching philosophy is grounded in the idea that nursing education is a transformational process for students. The educator is the facilitator of that process and has a powerful role in constructing learning opportunities that have a great effect on the growth and development of the student into a nurse. If done haphazardly or without consideration to the impact- especially in simulation- great harm can come to that student. Deep scars and trauma can be left behind, challenging the confidence, growth and positive transformation of that student. For this reason, I am researching the practices of pre-briefing in nursing education.  I feel it is crucial for a structured and theory based framework of the essential elements of pre-briefing be developed so nurse faculty can have guidance in implementing simulation based education. Pre-briefing is a critical element of simulation design and much like the focus on debriefing techniques and the safety of the simulation environment and the debrief, and I feel we must be just as careful, deliberate and structured in designing and implementing the pre-brief.


More on learning theories and nursing education.

Best practices in experiential learning.

Simulation based constructivist approach for education leaders.