Background: High-fidelity simulation is known to improve participant learning and behavioral performance. Simulation scenarios generate stress that affects memory retention and may impact future performance. The authors hypothesized that more participants would recall three or more critical key messages at three months when a relaxation break was performed before debriefing of critical event scenarios.
Methods: Each resident actively participated in one scenario and observed another. Residents were randomized in two parallel-arms. The intervention was a 5-min standardized relaxation break immediately before debriefing; controls had no break before debriefing. Five scenario-specific messages were read aloud by instructors during debriefings. Residents were asked by telephone three months later to recall the five messages from their two scenarios, and were scored for each scenario by blinded investigators. The primary endpoint was the number of residents participating actively who recalled three or more messages. Secondary endpoints included: number of residents observing who recalled three or more messages, anxiety level, and debriefing quality.
Results: In total, 149 residents were randomized and included. There were 52 of 73 (71%) residents participating actively who recalled three or more messages at three months in the intervention group versus 35 of 76 (46%) among controls (difference: 25% [95% CI, 10 to 40%], P = 0.004). No significant difference was found between groups for observers, anxiety or debriefing quality.
Conclusions: There was an additional 25% of active participants who recalled the critical messages at three months when a relaxation break was performed before debriefing of scenarios. Benefits of relaxation to enhance learning should be considered for medical education.