Debriefing or Feedback: Exploring the Impact of Two Post-Scenario Discussion Methods in the Acquisition and Retention of Non-Technical Skills


  • Carla Sá-Couto Biomedical Simulation Center. Faculty of Medicine. University of Porto. CINTESIS@RISE. Community Medicine, Information and Decision Sciences Department. Faculty of Medicine. University of Porto.
  • Diana Rodrigues Biomedical Simulation Center. Faculty of Medicine. University of Porto. Serviço de Anestesiologia. Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de São João. Porto.
  • Marcos Gouveia Biomedical Simulation Center. Faculty of Medicine. University of Porto. Department of Surgery and Physiology. Faculty of Medicine. University of Porto. CUF Porto Hospital. Porto.



Clinical Competence, Formative Feedback, Patient Care Team, Simulation Training, Students, Medical


Introduction: There is a paucity of quantitative studies objectively comparing debriefing and feedback as methods for post-scenario discussion and its impact on healthcare teams’ acquisition and retention of non-technical skills. The main purpose of this study is to provide some insight on this research question, using a sample of medical students. A secondary objective explores students’ opinion and preference on the post-scenario discussion.
Material and Methods: Forty-five medical students were distributed among 15 teams, and randomly allocated to two groups. Each team participated in three different simulated scenarios, with similar levels of difficulty and opportunities to apply specific non-technical skills: leadership, communication, and task management. To assess the acquisition and retention of skills, scenarios occurred on days one (baseline), two (acquisition) and 20 (retention). Team performance was objectively evaluated by an observer, using scenario recordings. Students individually assessed different aspects of debriefing and feedback.
Results: Both debriefing and feedback groups showed similar overall increase in objective scores, with significant increase between days one and two (acquisition), and a smaller increase between days two and 20 (retention). Students indicated debriefing as the preferred discussion method.
Conclusion: Debriefing and feedback are effective post-scenario discussion methods, promoting acquisition and retention of non-technical skills, by undergraduate students. Allying debriefing reflexive practice with feedback directive style, and shifting appropriately between facilitation and instruction, can be a good compromise to achieve a timely and educationally meaningful discussion.


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How to Cite

Sá-Couto C, Rodrigues D, Gouveia M. Debriefing or Feedback: Exploring the Impact of Two Post-Scenario Discussion Methods in the Acquisition and Retention of Non-Technical Skills. Acta Med Port [Internet]. 2022 Jun. 27 [cited 2023 Mar. 23];36(1):34-41. Available from: