Bridging the gap: a five stage approach for developing specialty-specific entrustable professional activities

James Kwan*, Roslyn Crampton, Lise L. Mogensen, Roslyn Weaver, Cees van der Vleuten, Wendy C.Y. Hu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs) are increasingly used as a focus for assessment in graduate medical education (GME). However, a consistent approach to guide EPA design is currently lacking, in particular concerning the actual content (knowledge, skills and attitude required for specific tasks) for EPAs. This paper describes a comprehensive five stage approach, which was used to develop two specialty-specific EPAs in emergency medicine focused on the first year of GME.

Methods: The five stage approach was used to gain consensus on the task, content and entrustment scale for two specialty-specific EPAs in emergency medicine. The participants consisted of twelve clinical supervisors working in the emergency department. The five stages were: 1) Selecting the EPA topic; 2) Developing the EPA content by collecting data from participants using focus group and individual interviews; 3) Drafting the EPAs based on analysis of collected data; 4) Seeking feedback on the draft EPAs from the participants and other stakeholders; 5) Refining and finalising the EPAs based on feedback.

Results: Two specialty-specific EPAs were developed using the five stage approach. The participants reached consensus on the specific tasks and criteria for performance for the two EPAs. They also agreed that both day-to-day (ad hoc) and formal (summative) entrustment decisions were put into practice through the intensity of supervision provided to PGY1 doctors. As a result, a three level entrustment and supervision scale consisting of direct active, indirect active, passive was developed reflecting the shift in the intensity of supervision from close supervision to minimal supervision.

Conclusions: The five stage approach described in this paper was used successfully to develop two specialty-specific EPAs in emergency medicine along with a three level entrustment scale. We propose that the five stage approach is transferable to a range of medical training contexts to design specialty-specific EPAs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2016


  • Entrustable professional activities
  • Assessment design
  • Qualitative research
  • Consensus methods
  • Competence
  • Emergency medicine

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