The social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson coined the phrase, “The negative screams while the positive only whispers.” I don’t know about you, but this is extraordinarily true when reviewing course evaluations after simulation-based education programs!
Post-course evaluations are essential in measuring the program’s effectiveness and participant perceptions and are a tool to help with quality improvement initiatives. However, the feedback from vocal minorities can sometimes overshadow the opinions of the silent majority. After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into creating what you believe to be a successful simulation-based program, it can sometimes be a blow to your motivation when you receive negative evaluations. At times the feedback can be pithy and personal and can sting.
Receiving negative feedback can be challenging for many reasons. First and foremost, it can feel like a personal attack on the hard work and effort you’ve put into a project or program. It’s natural to feel defensive or upset when someone criticizes something you’ve put so much time and energy into creating. Additionally, negative feedback can be difficult to process and use constructively. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment’s emotions and feel overwhelmed by the criticism. This can make it difficult to see the feedback as an opportunity for growth and improvement rather than a setback or failure.
This can be problematic as the feedback may not accurately represent the actual experiences of most participants, but it can certainly feel that way. It is also important to recognize the opportunities that come with critical feedback that could help you improve your program. It can help educators and course designers to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for addressing these areas. Particularly when it is delivered constructively, and with a focus on improvement, negative feedback can be a powerful tool for enhancing the quality of simulation-based education programs and developing resilience in educators and learners alike. Critical feedback can help to identify areas for improvement, develop new strategies, and implement changes that can benefit future participants.
It is also important to remember that most participants with positive experiences may not feel the need to provide feedback. In contrast, those who have negative experiences may be more inclined to do so. So, I challenge you to go back and look at the designs of your course evaluation tools. It’s important to remember that the silent majority can be an important ally in the success of your program. By actively seeking out their feedback and insights, you can ensure that your program is meeting the needs of all participants, not just the most vocal. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the critical feedback; we just must find a way to balance it into a healthy model that contributes to resilience.
Developing a growth mindset is essential for developing resilience for those running simulation programs. It involves embracing challenges and staying motivated even when things get tough. Instead of seeing failures and setbacks as signs of inadequacy, individuals with a healthy mindset view them as opportunities for growth and learning. One powerful tool I use is remaining patient-centric in the decisions made regarding our simulations. Thinking about the downstream benefits that help raise the quality-of-care patients receive because of our efforts helps to keep my eye on the ball.
Lastly, remember that we can’t be all things to all people. While we remain excited and recognize the power of simulation-based education, not everyone will share our enthusiasm. As we move forward, remember that we can learn from the naysayers and the people unhappy that they are required to participate in some of our programs. Try to avoid the negative screaming in your ear, and you mistakenly believe that it represents the majority opinion. Stay focused on the idea that patients will benefit from our efforts, and many participants likely perceive value from our efforts.