Competency-Based, Time-Variable Education in the Health Professions: Crossroads


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Abstract

Health care systems around the world are transforming to align with the needs of 21st-century patients and populations. Transformation must also occur in the educational systems that prepare the health professionals who deliver care, advance discovery, and educate the next generation of physicians in these evolving systems. Competency-based, time-variable education, a comprehensive educational strategy guided by the roles and responsibilities that health professionals must assume to meet the needs of contemporary patients and communities, has the potential to catalyze optimization of educational and health care delivery systems. By designing educational and assessment programs that require learners to meet specific competencies before transitioning between the stages of formal education and into practice, this framework assures the public that every physician is capable of providing high-quality care. By engaging learners as partners in assessment, competency-based, time-variable education prepares graduates for careers as lifelong learners. While the medical education community has embraced the notion of competencies as a guiding framework for educational institutions, the structure and conduct of formal educational programs remain more aligned with a time-based, competency-variable paradigm.The authors outline the rationale behind this recommended shift to a competency-based, time-variable education system. They then introduce the other articles included in this supplement to Academic Medicine, which summarize the history of, theories behind, examples demonstrating, and challenges associated with competency-based, time-variable education in the health professions.

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