EMS Education Tips

5 Tips for Patient Assessment Scenario Debriefing

Scenarios allow students to see injuries and illness within the context of the patient assessment. They also allow students to practice applying treatments. The final phase of any scenario is the debrief. The instructor’s role is to review what happened and begin the process of transferring the lessons learned from the performance phase to future training or actual incidents. If you are an EMS educator follow these Everyday EMS Tips for debriefing:

1) Don’t attempt to debrief every component of the scenario. Focus discussion on the components most important to the scenario objectives .

2) Ask questions to stimulate discussion about the objectives while avoiding statements that judge performance.

3) Make sure to ask what went well. It is often more difficult for instructors and students to talk about successes.

4) Ask specific questions to specific people. All students need to be ready for giving hand-off reports. Specific questions – i.e. “What were your patient’s initial assessment problems?” — prepares the student for the work environment.

5) Use questions that teach and elicit new information. If every group assessed a respiratory distress patient, each student reporting during the debriefing should add new information to the debrief.

As you near the conclusion of the debriefing ask, “What questions do you have?” Instead of asking “do you have any questions?” A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question almost always results in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Asking, “What questions do you have?” almost always leads to a question.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.