The importance of the brief

The brief sets the scene for the simulation, makes the learners aware of what is required of them, and addresses safety and fidelity issues. For inexperienced simulation learners the brief is essential to set up the success of the simulation.

Even for experienced learners, the brief still plays an important role. Policies, procedures, protocols, clinical guidelines and any other resources should be provided in advance for learners to prepare for the session. Learners will be motivated to prepare for the session, especially when they face the prospect of performing in front of their peers.

A brief should address all of the following:

  • Set up a safe learning environment – psychological and physical
  • Orientation to simulation setting/equipment
  • Use of video recording/streaming (if relevant)
  • Set the rules for debriefing prior to the simulation
  • Identify learning objectives
  • Assessment details (if learners are being assessed)
  • Provide information about the scenario, the participant tasks and role expectations
  • Provide opportunity for participants to clarify points and ask questions
  • State if a time out option is available
  • Starting cue

Tips for preparing a simulation brief

Don’t give away all of the scenario details in the brief, just provide the information that would usually be available in the context of the simulation. This might be a handover, a referral letter, or a patient medical record.

Some learners will try to predict the scenario events and will be waiting for the patient to ‘crash’. It may be useful to tell learners that this is not going to happen and that there are no surprises in the scenario. This will allow them to focus on the scenario and maximise their learning.

If there is a surprise in the scenario, give a broad description of the events, such as stating that the scenario is about clinical decision making and that the learners will be required to recognise and respond to the patient’s condition.

If learners enter a simulation with an inadequate brief they may be confused about the situation or their role, not understand the setting or equipment, and will be difficult to engage. Providing learners with the information they need to immerse themselves in the situation but still engage in active learning will maximise the value of the simulation experience.