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June 14, 2023

Debriefing with the PEARLS Method in Immersive VR Simulation


Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

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Imagine a scenario where a group of nursing students has just completed an immersive VR simulation, successfully treating a complex patient case. They feel a sense of accomplishment, but what comes next is equally crucial. 

How can they enhance their learning and ensure the experience translates into real-world expertise? Enter debriefing with the PEARLS method – an innovative approach that helps them reflect, analyze, and learn from simulated experiences.

In the UbiSim immersive virtual reality platform, we use the PEARLS method to help nurse learners debrief.

What is debriefing?

Debriefing is a facilitated discussion that occurs after a clinical experience, simulation, or other learning activity, providing an opportunity for nurse learners to reflect on their performance, receive feedback, and identify areas for improvement. By engaging in debriefing sessions, novice nurses can gain insights into their thought processes, decision-making strategies, and actions, helping them to refine their clinical judgment skills over time.

Ugwu et. al shared in study, “Debriefing being a vital tool in healthcare should be made a core part of training curriculum for its professionals.”

The PEARLS method of debriefing

In the world of debriefing, the PEARLS method stands out as a framework that maximizes learning outcomes. PEARLS is an acronym representing six essential steps: Pre-briefing, Engage, Analyze, Reflect, Learn, and Summarize. 

Developed by experts in the field, this method guides facilitators and nurse learners through a comprehensive debriefing process, ensuring that every moment of the experience is leveraged for optimal learning. 

The PEARLS method provides a structured approach to debriefing, ensuring that every step contributes to effective learning and growth. Let's explore each step in detail:

1. Pre-briefing: Setting expectations and goals

The debriefing process begins even before the simulated experience starts. Facilitators set the stage for the session's objectives, expectations, and ground rules. Nurse learners are informed about the purpose of the activity and the desired outcomes. Pre-briefing establishes a supportive environment, builds engagement, and creates a shared understanding of learning goals.

2. Engage: Encouraging active participation and open communication

Active participation is essential for meaningful debriefing discussions. This next step starts after the simulated experience! In the engage phase, facilitators encourage nurse learners to share their thoughts, emotions, and observations about the simulated experience. This step promotes open communication, creating a safe space for nurse learners to express their perspectives, ask questions, and contribute to the collective learning process. Facilitators employ various techniques, such as probing questions or group dynamics, to stimulate engagement and ensure everyone's voice is heard.

3. Analyze: Identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement

The analyze phase focuses on a thorough examination of the simulated experience. Facilitators guide nurse learners to identify individual and collective strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Through guided questioning and critical thinking exercises, participants analyze their actions, decision-making processes, and the consequences of their choices. This step promotes self-awareness, helps learners recognize patterns, and provides opportunities for constructive feedback and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. 

UbiSim makes this easier by providing a video recording of each learner's performance and automated written suggestions for how to improve.

4. Reflect: Promoting individual and collective reflection on the experience

Reflection is at the heart of the PEARLS method. Facilitators encourage self-reflection and promote dialogue that helps participants gain insights into their behaviors, assumptions, biases, and communication styles. In the reflection phase, nurse learners delve into a deeper exploration of their emotions, thoughts, and reactions during the simulated experience. This introspective process supports the development of metacognitive skills and enhances self-awareness, enabling learners to make more informed choices in future scenarios.

5. Learn: Facilitating knowledge acquisition and skill development

The learn phase focuses on translating insights gained from the analysis and reflection into actionable learning. This step emphasizes the application of knowledge and the development of critical thinking and decision-making abilities. Facilitators facilitate acquiring new knowledge, providing additional information, or introducing alternative strategies. Learners engage in collaborative problem-solving, explore evidence-based practices, and develop skills that can be applied to real-world situations.

6. Summarize: Consolidating key takeaways and action points

The final step of the PEARLS method is to summarize the key takeaways and action points. Facilitators help participants distill insights from the debriefing session into concise summaries. By summarizing the key learnings and action steps, nurse learners can solidify their understanding, establish clear goals for improvement, and plan for future learning and growth. Summarization also provides closure to the debriefing session and ensures that the lessons learned are carried forward beyond the simulation.

By following the structured sequence of the PEARLS method, facilitators and nurse learners can engage in effective debriefing sessions that maximize the educational impact of simulated experiences. Each step contributes to a comprehensive and thoughtful exploration of the learning process, leading to enhanced knowledge acquisition, skill development, and improved performance.

How can UbiSim help with the PEARLS method?

UbiSim has a built-in debriefing experience following the PEARLS framework that includes a recording of the simulation, evidence-based feedback that populates based on facilitator’s selections in response to the student’s actions during the scenario, and guided reflection questions. This allows students to reflect on their performance and ways to improve their nursing care.

Want to learn more about UbiSim for nurse learners and experience our built-in debriefing yourself? Request a demo today!
Interested in trying UbiSim in your healthcare institution?
Request a Demo
Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

As an integral center of UbiSim's content team, Ginelle pens stories on the rapidly changing landscape of VR in nursing simulation. Ginelle is committed to elevating the voices of practicing nurses, nurse educators, and program leaders who are making a difference.

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