Building a doctor, one skill at a time: Rethinking clinical training through a new skills-based feedback modality

Perspect Med Educ. 2021 May 26. doi: 10.1007/s40037-021-00666-9. Online ahead of print.


The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education milestones and entrustable professional activities (EPAs) are important assessment approaches but may lack specificity for learners seeking improvement through daily feedback. As in other professions, clinicians grow best when they engage in deliberate practice of well-defined skills in familiar contexts. This growth is augmented by specific, actionable coaching from supervisors. This article proposes a new feedback modality called microskills, which are derived from the psychology, negotiation, and business literature, and are unique in their ability to elicit targeted feedback for trainee development. These microskills are grounded in both clinical and situational contexts, thereby mirroring learners' cognitive schemas and allowing for more natural skill selection and adoption. When taken as a whole, microskills are granular actions that map to larger milestones, competencies, and EPAs. This article outlines the theoretical justification for this new skills-based feedback modality, the methodology behind the creation of clinical microskills, and provides a worked example of microskills for a pediatric resident on a hospital medicine rotation. Ultimately, microskills have the potential to complement milestones and EPAs and inform feedback that is specific, actionable, and relevant to medical learners.

Keywords: Competency-based medical education; Entrustable professional activities; Microskills; Milestones.