Debriefing medical teams: 12 evidence-based best practices and tips

Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2008 Sep;34(9):518-27. doi: 10.1016/s1553-7250(08)34066-5.


Background: Medical teams are commonly called on to perform complex tasks, and when those tasks involve saving the lives of critically injured patients, it is imperative that teams perform optimally. Yet, medical care settings do not always lend themselves to efficient teamwork. The human factors and occupational sciences literatures concerning the optimization of team performance suggest the usefulness of a debriefing process--either for critical incidents or recurring events. Although the debrief meeting is often used in the context of training medical teams, it is also useful as a continuous learning tool throughout the life of the team. WHAT ARE GOOD DEBRIEFS?

An overview: The debriefing process allows individuals to discuss individual and team-level performance, identify errors made, and develop a plan to improve their next performance.

Best practices and tips for debriefing teams: THE DEBRIEF PROCESS: The list of 12 best practices and tips--4 for hospital leaders and the remainder for debrief facilitators or team leaders--should be useful for teams performing in various high-risk areas, including operating rooms, intensive care units, and emergency departments. The best practices and tips should help teams to identify weak areas of teamwork and develop new strategies to improve teamwork competencies. Moreover, they include practices that support both regular, recurring debriefs and critical-incident debriefings. Team members should follow these main guidelines--also provided in checklist form--which include ensuring that the organization creates a supportive learning environment for debriefs (concentrating on a few critical performance issues), providing feedback to all team members, and recording conclusions made and goals set during the debrief to facilitate future feedback.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Patient Care Team / standards*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • United States