Critical Thoughts About the Core Entrustable Professional Activities in Undergraduate Medical Education

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The Core Entrustable Professional Activities for Entering Residency (Core EPAs) have taken a strong hold on undergraduate medical education (UME). This Perspective questions their value added and considers the utility of the Core EPAs along two separate dimensions: (1) the ways they change the content and focus of the goals of UME; and (2) the extent to which entrustable professional activity (EPA)–based assessment conforms to basic principles of measurement theory as practiced in the social sciences. Concerning content and focus, the author asks whether the 13 Core EPAs frame UME too narrowly, putting competencies into the background and overlooking certain aspirational, but important and measurable, objectives of UME. The author also discusses the unevenness of EPAs in terms of their breadth and their developmental status as core activities. Regarding measurement and assessment, the author raises concerns that the EPA metric introduces layers of inference that may cause distortions and hinder accuracy and rater agreement. In addition, the use of weak anchors and multidimensional scales is also of concern. The author concludes with a proposal for reframing the Core EPAs and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education competencies into broadly defined sets of behaviors, referred to as “Tasks of Medicine,” and calls for the development of a systematic and longitudinal research agenda. The author asserts that “slowing down when you should” applies to medical education as well as patient care, and calls for a reevaluation of the Core EPAs before further commitment to them.

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