Context: Conflict during simulation debriefing can interfere with learning when psychological safety is threatened. Debriefers often feel unprepared to address conflict between learners and the literature does not provide evidence-based guidance within the simulation setting. The purpose of this study was to describe debriefers' approach to mediating interpersonal conflict and explore when, why and how they adopt mediation strategies. Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of qualitative data collected as part of a larger study examining simulation debriefers' approaches to debriefing scenarios with different learner characteristics. For this study, we applied thematic analysis to transcripts from simulated debriefings (n = 10) and the associated pre-simulation (n = 11) and post-simulation (n = 10) interviews that focused on interpersonal conflict between learners. Results: Debriefers described struggling with mediating conflict and the importance of self-awareness. Specific mediation strategies included intervening, addressing power relations, reconciling unproductive differences, leveraging different perspectives, circumventing the conflict, and shifting beyond the conflict; each of these strategies encompassed a number of particular skills. Situations that triggered a mediation approach were related to psychological safety, emotional intensity, and opportunities for shared understanding and productive learning. Debriefers applied mediation strategies and skills in a flexible and creative way. Conclusions: The strategies we have described for mediating interpersonal conflict between learners in simulation debriefing align with notions of psychological safety and may be useful in guiding future professional development for simulation educators.
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