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Debriefing is the practice of facilitated discussion between participants—reflecting on actions and thought processes. Distinct from feedback, or the one-way transfer of information, debriefing is a powerful tool that enables reflection, enhances operational efficiency, and improves clinical performance and interprofessional dynamics.1,2 Debriefing has increasingly been incorporated into healthcare settings, in training, and within real-time clinical practice. In obstetrics specifically, the implementation of routine debriefing programs has demonstrated improvement in clinical outcomes and is therefore recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology as a tool to help prepare for and manage clinical emergencies.3


  • To reflect on important components of routine care or a critical event, create a shared mental model, understand the thought processes leading to actions

  • To evaluate clinical workflow efficiency, facilitate interprofessional training, review clinical performance metrics, and promote continuous improvement, e.g., identify hazards within the workplace and propose risk mitigation strategies

  • To foster a culture of safety and cultivate an environment which acknowledges psychological burden and promotes provider wellbeing4


Healthcare teams should consider the following when establishing a debriefing program in their organization:

  • A list of events that would trigger a debrief

  • The purpose of the debrief

  • The participants, facilitator(s), timing, and format

  • The content to be covered, the structure of the debriefing session, and the follow-up processes

These are summarized in Table 33-1. Furthermore, great care must be taken to appreciate the potential sensitive nature of debriefing, given preexisting concerns of punitive behavior and psychological distress.4

TABLE 33-1What to Consider When Debriefing in Obstetrics

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