Working with entrustable professional activities in clinical education in undergraduate medical education: a scoping review

BMC Med Educ. 2021 Mar 19;21(1):172. doi: 10.1186/s12909-021-02608-9.


Background: Entrustable professional activities (EPAs) are increasingly used in undergraduate medical education (UME). We conducted a scoping review to summarize the evidence for the use of EPAs in clinical rotations in UME.

Methods: We searched multiple databases for scoping reviews based on the PRISMA guidelines for articles reporting qualitative and quantitative research, as well as conceptual and curriculum development reports, on EPAs in UME clinical rotations.

Results: We identified 3309 records by searching through multiple databases. After the removal of duplicates, 1858 reports were screened. A total of 36 articles were used for data extraction. Of these, 47% reported on EPA and EPA-based curriculum development for clerkships, 50% reported on implementation strategies, and 53% reported on assessment methods and tools used in clerkships. Validity frameworks for developing EPAs in the context of clerkships were inconsistent. Several specialties reported feasible implementation strategies for EPA-based clerkship curricula, however, these required additional faculty time and resources. Limited exposure to clinical activities was identified as a barrier to relevant learning experiences. Educators used nationally defined, or specialty-specific EPAs, and a range of entrustability and supervision scales. We found only one study that used an empirical research approach for EPA assessment. One article reported on the earlier advancement of trainees from UME to graduate medical education based on summative entrustment decisions.

Conclusions: There is emerging evidence concerning how EPAs can be effectively introduced to clinical training in UME. Specialty-specific, nested EPAs with context-adapted, entrustment-supervision scales might be helpful in better leveraging their formative assessment potential.

Keywords: Clinical education; Entrustable professional activities; Scoping review; Undergraduate medical education.