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Nurse debriefings are 'crucial' but doubts raised over timing

Nurse debriefing sessions can be an effective way to provide psychological support and to learn lessons, RCN congress heard.

Nurse debriefing sessions can be an effective way to provide psychological support and to learn lessons, RCN congress heard


Nurse debriefing is important says retired nurse Zeba Arif at RCN congress. Picture: John Houlihan

Yet many delegates questioned a call for debriefing to occur after every shift. Retired nurse Zeba Arif led the argument that nurse debriefing is crucial after each period of work.

‘I believe timely debriefing is important because it takes into account the stressful work environment, misconceptions can be corrected and facts can be reviewed,’ she said.

'Not enough time'

RCN Inner north central London branch member Helen O’Boyle, who also took part in the matter for discussion on Tuesday, said debriefing was important and it was usually done in her area after the death of a patient who had received end of life care.

But she added: ‘Yes, debriefing is important…but I don’t think it’s right at the end of each shift. I don’t feel we have enough time – we have enough pressures.’

Debriefing originates from the military and is used in healthcare to help team members deal with traumatic events, such as the death of a patient, child abuse effects and aggression and violence.

Future solutions

The information can also be used to help analyse serious untoward incidents and suggest what could be done differently in the future.

RCN Southampton and Isle of Wight branch chair Ged Swinton, who is a resuscitation officer, told of the impact of a traumatic incident when he did not have a debrief.

‘I remember waking up in the night, hearing my crash bleep going off whereas actually it was in my office four miles away…that’s how it affected me when I didn’t have a debrief,’ he said.

RCN Wiltshire branch member Chloe Scotford also supported debriefing, but not necessarily after each shift.

She highlighted how it was important for there to be an open culture for debriefing. Ms Scotford added that a student colleague felt they may appear ‘weak’ for requesting one after an incident.


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