How to Wear a Debriefer Uniform: A Chat with Alberto Zamboni, an Airline Pilot “landed” in Medical Simulation
Let’s start with a direct question: do you feel more comfortable in a pilot’s or debriefer’s uniform?
I choose the pilot’s uniform, with regard to the size. The debriefer’s uniform instead is tailored to other people’s needs, and it is up to me to make them feel comfortable reflecting on their experience in the simulation.
Let’s take a few steps back… Tell us how you approached simulation.
It is the simulation that has approached me from the beginning. Even before we get close to the real plane, we are thrown into a kind of simulator. Whether it’s a tablet to see the operation of the different “internal organs” of the plane or a model to practice the dangers on board (fire, smoke, emergency slides) and finally inside a real flight simulator that, imagine, often costs more than the real plane.
It has always been said that simulation in medicine was born from simulation in aviation… What do aviation and healthcare have in common?
These are two activities in which time is usually scarce, the risk is high and you almost never work alone. We are trained to be perfect but we must not believe that we really are. We are immersed in a sea of knowledge and at the same time we submit to frequent baths of humility.
We must make the most of our potential and accept our limits. What better gym to train safely?
What was the hardest thing when you started doing the debriefer?
Consider that there are points of view different from mine. Being able to “read” the physical behavior, the paraverbal signals, the emotional state and the stress of the colleagues who had simulated. Understand what thoughts guided their actions. Debriefing is a beautiful exercise in accepting diversity and inclusion. As Montaigne said: “No sentence can stun me, no opinion can offend me no matter how much it contrasts with mine. The most useful and natural exercise of our spirit is conversation.”
Can you tell us more about your work with simulation? Tell us the most interesting thing that has happened to you recently in simulation.
I proposed a very rare bug on board and in the debriefing I reasoned about the different aspects of the situation. Less than a month later, the same driver found himself handling the same situation in reality and with complete satisfaction!
What are the most frequent requests made to you as a simulation instructor?
Re-propose the same scenario that we have just experienced to manage it better and with less stress. And this means that as instructors we don’t have to play the haughty role of “teacher” but allow colleagues to walk away satisfied with their simulation experience, to provide true empowerment.
Going back to your work in aviation and the similarity with medicine. Have you ever been wrong in your work? How did you behave?
As O. Wilde said, “Experience is the name we give to our mistakes.” Three simple rules apply in aviation: mistakes must be accepted, understood and communicated.
Although many times it is not an error but an event. There is not just one gesture, but a chain of actions, one does not work in a vacuum but in a context and almost never alone, but in a system of relationships. We say “the colleague next to you who watches you is not there to watch you but to protect you”. And besides me, he protects the safety of the flight.
Is it better a technical skill today or a soft skill tomorrow?
I have no doubts: I vote for soft skills. In flight, if I miss a technicality, I have many resources available, first of all my colleagues.
Although I also need soft skills when I get off the plane, in everyday life.
A proposal: would you invite us to a flight simulator?
I would love that! We can play safely. The only real danger is… becoming even more passionate!