Award Date

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Nancy Menzel

Second Committee Member

Michele Clark

Third Committee Member

Jessica Doolen

Fourth Committee Member

Ramona Denby-Brinson

Number of Pages



Debriefing, the reflective activity following an experiential learning exercise, has been identified as the most important part of simulation learning and is also important for learning in other activities utilized in nursing education. There is general agreement that debriefing provides learning and improves performance. However, there is little specific evidence about the phenomenon of learning acquired during debriefing, including how it occurs, how it is defined and identified, and how it is evaluated by debriefing facilitators. In addition, there are no instruments or tools specifically measuring learning acquired during debriefing. Without practical and theoretically grounded tools, simulation activities will continue to lack the element of objective assessment necessary to move evidence-based teaching practices forward. A measure of learning acquired during debriefing, independent of a specific debriefing method and across debriefing types, will aid in the design of future simulation debriefing research that is both rigorous and feasible.

To inform future tool development, I conducted a qualitative descriptive study to provide initial evidence regarding the learning acquired during debriefing. Following Institutional Review Board approval, I conducted 17 semi-structured interviews of nurse educators who facilitate debriefing in pre-licensure nursing programs. The interviews were transcribed and data analysis was completed to provide answers to the research questions using simple descriptive statistics, inductive reasoning processes and content analysis to interpret and structure meaning from the interviews.

Study results included the nurse educators’ verbatim definitions of learning as well as simple descriptions of how they measured the learning acquired during debriefing. Qualitative themes emerging from the interviews describe how nurse educators recognize when students are learning during debriefing; these themes also describe activities that the nurse educators used to promote student learning during debriefing.

Nurse educators identified that nursing students are learning during debriefing when they express what they have learned directly, connect past and present learning, plan for future practice experiences, share with peers, experience the “Ah-ha” moment, critically review their actions, display excitement and engagement during debriefing, apply their simulation learning in subsequent clinical and simulation experiences, and display learning in formal and informal assessments.

Nurse educators described many activities they used to promote learning when they facilitated debriefings. These activities included utilizing simulation preparation activities, aligning their debriefing practices with a specific debriefing method or learning theory, utilizing intentional debriefing, establishing safety, maintaining a supportive demeanor, encouraging student-led debriefing, engaging the student learner, using debriefing aids, promoting recognition of learning, facilitating to the level of the learner, attending to the debriefing environment, and providing post-debriefing activities.

I will use the results of this study to inform future development of an instrument intended to measure learning acquired during debriefing. This study also provides many insights into how nurse educators can facilitate learning during debriefing for pre-licensure nursing students


Debriefing; Nursing Education; Simulation


Education | Nursing

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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