Entrustment Decisions: Bringing the Patient Into the Assessment Equation

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With the increased interest in the use of entrustable professional activities (EPAs) in undergraduate medical education (UME) and graduate medical education (GME) come questions about the implications for assessment. Entrustment assessment combines the evaluation of learners’ knowledge, skills, and behaviors with the evaluation of their readiness to be entrusted to perform critical patient care responsibilities. Patient safety, then, should be an explicit component of educational assessments. The validity of these assessments in the clinical workplace becomes the validity of the entrustment decisions.

Modern definitions of the validity of educational assessments stress the importance of the purpose of the test and the consequences of the learner’s score. Thus, if the learner is a trainee in a clinical workplace and entrusting her or him to perform an EPA is the focus of the assessment, the validity argument for that assessment should include a patient safety component.

While the decision to allow a learner to practice unsupervised is typically geared toward GME, similar decisions are made in UME regarding learners’ readiness to perform EPAs with indirect supervision (i.e., without a supervisor present in the room). Three articles in this issue address implementing EPAs in UME.

The author of this Commentary discusses the possibility of implementing true entrustment decisions in UME. He argues that bringing the patient into the educational assessment equation is marrying educational and health care responsibilities. Building trust in learners from early on, gradually throughout the continuum of medical education, may reframe our vision on assessment in the workplace.

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