Peer-Debriefing After Distressing Patient Care Events: A Workshop for Pediatric Residents

Publication ID Published Volume
10624 September 5, 2017 13

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Introduction: When confronted with a distressing patient care event, physicians experience feelings of failure, inadequacy, and self-doubt that negatively impact emotional well-being and have been linked to burnout and premature exit from the medical profession. A need exists within the medical community for improved emotional processing of distressing patient care events, particularly for resident physicians at the beginning of their careers. Methods: To encourage physicians to communicate as a means of initiating emotional processing after a distressing patient care event, a workshop was developed for pediatric residents providing training on a peer-debriefing model taken from the bereavement counseling literature. The workshop is designed to take 60 minutes, including dedicated opportunities to observe and conduct debriefing sessions based on the residents’ own distressing patient care experiences. Included are the workshop facilitation guide, the adapted peer-debriefing model, hypothetical patient care scenarios, and pre- and postsession survey evaluation forms. Results: Pre- and posttraining survey metrics revealed statistically significant and meaningful increases in pediatric residents’ self-reported comfort with and likelihood of leading a peer-debriefing session in an appropriate clinical setting. Discussion: This workshop is a well-received, effective intervention that provides pediatric residents with a tool to aid in the timely emotional processing of distressing patient care events. It has been adopted into the standard educational curriculum of our home institution’s pediatric residency program. This workshop may be extended throughout the field, helping physicians at all levels of practice process the inevitable distress inherent in caring for the sick.


McDermott A, Brook I, Ben-Isaac E. Peer-debriefing after distressing patient care events: a workshop for pediatric residents. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2017;13:10624.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Describe an effective strategy for leading a peer-debriefing session after a distressing patient care event.
  2. Apply the peer-debriefing model to their own distressing patient care experiences.
  3. Formulate a plan for providing emotional support to a colleague experiencing emotional distress.
  4. Justify the importance of provider emotional well-being in the offering of safe, high-quality patient care.


  • Debriefing, Pediatric, Role-Play, Peer, Support, Emotional Distress


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