Also known as ‘CIT’, the critical incident technique involves assessment through story telling. A psychologist would ask a series of questions to provoke their respondents to share their experiences with a particular subject or event. This is a form of qualitative data collection that works to quantify the results into meaningful categories. This technique is often employed to monitor and explore the effects of events on employees to document and, ultimately, improve upon the situation or level of care being provided. Occupations that are particularly stressful or involve responding to disturbing events of scenes. First responders like police officers, fire fighters, and paramedics are likely to experience a critical incident assessment several times throughout their careers.
Critical Incident Assessment Technique
A critical assessment involves, at the simplest level, story-telling. During the assessment, responders are asked to share their experience of a particular event or situation. Most often, during these assessments, the responders are asked to describe a challenging or disturbing situation in as much detail as possible. Once the story has been told, the next portion of the assessment involves the respondents sharing how they reacted to the experience and its outcome. Feelings and perceptions are important as they provide insights into the responses of individuals to certain situations, and that information is used to integrate a system of checks and balances that can potentially improve a system or experience for future individuals in that same experience.
When revelations from critical assessments are put into practice and effective solutions are implemented, the critical incident assessment is considered successful; when the outcome does not produce any viable information that can be put into practice, the assessment is deemed unsuccessful. The objective of any critical incident assessment is to learn from the incident so that objectives of improvement can be met.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Critical Incident Technique
The main advantage of the critical incident technique is that it is easy to administer. After all, story-telling is not costly, nor is the process of recording the stories to glean lessons and pertinent information. Many people enjoy the cathartic properties of sharing their stories, and gaining insights into a critical situation is a positive outcome. One of the main disadvantages of the critical incident technique is that not everyone enjoys sharing. Some people are closed off and find it traumatizing to relive difficult situations through story-telling. Another disadvantage is the non-reliability of memory and perception. Of course, a person’s perception of an event does not always equal authenticity, and memory can be a fickle thing that does not always product accurate results.