HUMBLE: Six Traits That Will Make You a Better Simulation Educator and Lead Better Debriefings
Excelling as a educator in the healthcare simulation field goes beyond just imparting knowledge; it requires a unique set of qualities that can truly make a difference in students’ learning experiences. The acronym HUMBLE focuses on six key traits that can help educators better design, facilitate, and lead more effective debriefings. These traits include Humility, Understanding, Mindfulness, Balance, Learning, and Engaging. In this blog post, I will delve into these traits and explore how they can enhance your abilities as an educator, ultimately leading to more impactful and engaging debriefing sessions.
H – Humility
This is one of my favorites and the most important in my humble opinion! Approaching teaching responsibilities in simulation from a perspective of humility goes a long way. Instructors, with humility, acknowledge that they don’t know everything and remain open to continuous learning. This attitude is also imparted to the participants, encouraging them to adopt the same approach throughout their careers.
An instructor who demonstrates humility creates a more approachable and non-threatening atmosphere, allowing students to feel comfortable admitting to and learning from their errors. This also contributes to a milieu that helps maintain a safe learning environment and a perspective of a level playing field that helps to allow participants of the simulation to share their thoughts. This, in turn, gives us as faculty a privileged glimpse into their thought processes. Interestingly, it is also well-known in business literature that leaders who demonstrate humility are often perceived as more credible and trustworthy.
U – Understanding
Understanding the fact that each participant of your simulation is a person that has their individual lives, challenges, successes, experiences, and strong and weak skills is key to understanding the fact that there are varying amounts of knowledge and/or abilities for the person to apply that knowledge in the simulated session. In other words, many factors contribute to why someone knows something or can apply knowledge in each situation. We should maintain an understanding that everyone has gaps in knowledge and attempt to remain nonjudgmental as to why those gaps exist.
M – Mindfulness
It is incredibly important that we are mindful of our presence during the simulation as well as the debriefing. Educators need to be attentive, focused, immersed, and committed to the learning objectives to expertly facilitate and then lead a high-quality debriefing that contributes to the learning outcomes. We need to work to identify tips and challenges that help maintain our mindfulness, focus, and attention during these activities.
While I am not suggesting a prescriptive approach, it is important to introspect and determine how you enhance your mindfulness associated with the simulation-based education process. For some, it means being well rested; for others, it means appropriately titrated doses of caffeine, and yet for others, exhaustive preparation the day before. Reflect on your performance by thinking about when your concentration may have waxed and waned and what you can do to improve. I find it particularly challenging to remain cognitively sharp throughout the entire series when running the same scenario repeatedly with different groups of learners!
B – Balance
Creating the mindset of balance in any one simulation session helps participants discover what they need to improve upon and what they did well in each simulation encounter. There is an old saying, “The negative screams, while the positive only whispers….. ” that I think you would agree applies when we are facilitating a simulation and about to go into the debriefing. If you think about it from the learner’s perspective, exploring a laundry list of their failures without recognizing the contributions that went well can be demoralizing and interfere with the faculty/participant relationship. While I’m not suggesting that we gloss over egregious errors, it is important to find a balance between those activities that went well and those that need improvement.
L – Limited, Lifelong Learning
This may be my second favorite! When conducting the debriefing, faculty should avoid trying to comment or debrief on every single thing in every scenario. It is important to remember that the journey of healthcare, whether in a simulated environment, attending lectures, attending workshops, or generating experiences by taking care of real patients, is a lifelong learning process. Each encounter along the way provides the potential for learning, albeit limited by the amount of cognitive transfer that can occur at a given time. During simulation, there is a natural tendency to want to cram everything into every scenario. I think this emanates from the fact that we are so excited about the simulation modality and get a small opportunity with each participant! Admittedly, I need to keep myself in check during such encounters. It’s important to think of the human brain as a sponge. Once it is saturated, the sponge cannot effectively take on more water.
E – Engagement
Engaging the learners in the conversation, as well as designing the scenarios to engage learners actively, is part and parcel of the basis of the idea that simulation, through active learning, is a high-quality opportunity. Think about this during the design process of your scenarios as well as the debriefings, insofar as how you assign roles, what your observers are required to do, and how you rotate people in and out of the scenario.
During the debriefing, remember that engaging your learners so that they are responding to the prompts you provide during the debriefing will elicit the responses. As the learners are engaged in the conversation, you can listen to their thought processes and make evaluations of the depth of their knowledge around a particular topic. Additionally, you can identify gaps that exist, either in knowledge or the application of knowledge, that can help them improve for the future. So often, when training others in debriefing, I observe faculty members dropping into a mode of “mini-lecture” during what is supposed to be a debriefing. This deviates from active cognitive engagement and sometimes transcends into (a well-intentioned) one-way conversation. It is important to remember that if your participants are not engaged, you are potentially squandering some of the learning opportunities. At a minimum, you are giving up the ability to hear what they are thinking.
In summary, as you continue to develop your skills as a healthcare simulation educator, I invite you to use HUMBLE as an acronym that helps to reflect upon positive traits, actions, and good guiding principles, that provide learners with an optimized environment for improvement. I truly think that healthcare simulation educators have powerful opportunities for assisting with the transfer of knowledge, and experience and creating opportunities for reflection, and by being HUMBLE we can ensure a more effective and empathetic learning environment for all participants.
Until Next Time,