This qualitative study sought to characterize the role of debriefing after real critical events among anesthesia residents at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
From October 2016 to June 2017 and February to April 2018, the authors conducted 25 semistructured interviews with 24 anesthesia residents after they were involved in 25 unique critical events. Interviews focused on the experience of the event and the interactions that occurred thereafter. A codebook was generated through annotation, then used by 3 researchers in an iterative process to code interview transcripts. An explanatory model was developed using an abductive approach.
In the aftermath of events, residents underwent a multistage process by which the nature of critical events and the role of residents in them were continuously reconstructed. Debriefing—if it occurred—was 1 stage in this process, which also included stages of internal dialogue, event documentation, and lessons learned. Negotiated in each stage were residents’ culpability, reputation, and the appropriateness of their affective response to events.
Debriefing is one of several stages of interaction that occur after a critical event; all stages play a role in shaping how the event is interpreted and remembered. Because of its dynamic role in constituting the nature of events and residents’ role in them, debriefing can be a high-stakes interaction for residents, which can contribute to their reluctance to engage in it. The function and quality of debriefing can be assessed in more insightful fashion by understanding its relation to the other stages of event reconstruction.