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EMS NOW: Giving Feedback to the Trainee


EMS NOW - a weekly highlight of emergency medical services


EMS NOW: Giving Feedback to the Trainee

By Matt Comer, EMTP


"The first step is to realize a deficiency in learning exists and the learning domain the issues exists on"
As a field training officer or FTO, you are a clinical teacher of sorts whit the goal being to teach your trainees how to become solid, independent clinicians. Being an effective clinical teacher can be difficult at times and requires a calculated approach and understanding of how to give effective feedback. We must use clinical strategies for success. The first step is to realize a deficiency in learning exists and the learning domain the issues exists on. It there a knowledge deficit? Is there a an issue with skill performance? Is there an issue with attitude?

The trainee who fails to recognize the need for aspirin in the chest pain patient may be displaying a knowledge deficit. By contrast, if the trainee is unable to properly place a traction splint on a patient, the issue may be one of skill/psychomotor performance. A trainee who may be appear arrogant or not receptive to feedback could be considered to have an issue with attitude or personality. In all cases we should strive to understand the trainee

Once the issue has been identified and categorized, you can determine the best approach for delivering your feedback. A simple definition for feedback is "information about current performance given to improve future performance." 

Let's look at some examples of effective feedback for the clinical trainee. Feedback can be classified as positive and negative. Positive feedback is often easy to given and reinforces a correct action or behavior. Negative feedback can be difficult to give but, if delivered properly, can be a very effective teaching tool for the clinical education. 

According to the CJEM, there are four guidelines to follow when giving negative feedback. Those guidelines are as follows:

  • Give negative feedback in private taking care not to embarrass the trainee
  • Give negative feedback in a timely manner and delivered as soon as possible after observing the deficiency 
  • Give negative feedback should be specific and informative and must focus on the deficiency or problem and not the person
  • The trainee should be asked to provide a self evaluation and given an opportunity to solve the problem


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