Introduction: Emergency health care providers (HCPs) regularly perform difficult medical resuscitations that require complex decision making and action. Critical incident debriefing has been proposed as a mechanism to mitigate the psychological effect of these stressful events and improve both provider and patient outcomes. The purpose of this updated systematic review is to determine if HCPs performing debriefing after critical incidents, compared to no debriefing, improves the outcomes of the HCPs or patients. Methods: We performed a librarian assisted systematic review of OVID Medline, CINAHL, OVID Embase and Google Scholar (January 2006 to February 2017) No restrictions for language were imposed. Two investigators evaluated articles independently for inclusion criteria, quality and data collection. Agreement was measured using the Kappa statistic and quality of the articles were assessed using the Downs and Black evaluation tool. Results: Among the 658 publications identified 16 met inclusion criteria. Participants included physicians, nurses, allied health and learners involved in both adult and pediatric resuscitations. Findings suggest that HCPs view debriefing positively (n=7). One moderate quality study showed that debriefing can enhance medical student and resident knowledge. Several studies (n=8) demonstrated at least some improvement in CPR and intubation related technical skills. Debriefing is also associated with improved short term patient survival but not survival to discharge (n=5). Two studies reported benefits to HCPs mental health as evidenced by improved ability to manage grief and decreased reported symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Conclusion: We found HCPs value debriefing after critical incidents and that debriefing is associated with improved HCP knowledge, skill and well-being. Despite these positive findings, there continues to be limited evidence that debriefing significantly impacts long term patient outcomes. Larger scale higher quality studies are required to further delineate the effect of structured debriefing on patient and provider outcomes.
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