Implementation of Entrustable Professional Activities in General Surgery: Results of a National Pilot Study

Ann Surg. 2023 Oct 1;278(4):578-586. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005991. Epub 2023 Jul 13.


Objective: The ongoing complexity of general surgery training has led to an increased focus on ensuring the competence of graduating residents. Entrustable professional activities (EPAs) are units of professional practice that provide an assessment framework to drive competency-based education. The American Board of Surgery convened a group from the American College of Surgeons, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Surgery Review Committee, and Association of Program Directors in Surgery to develop and implement EPAs in a pilot group of residency programs across the country. The objective of this pilot study was to determine the feasibility and utility of EPAs in general surgery resident training.

Methods: 5 EPAs were chosen based on the most common procedures reported in ACGME case logs and by practicing general surgeons (right lower quadrant pain, biliary disease, inguinal hernia), along with common activities covering additional ACGME milestones (performing a consult, care of a trauma patient). Levels of entrustment assigned (1 to 5) were observation only, direct supervision, indirect supervision, unsupervised, and teaching others. Participating in site recruitment and faculty development occurred from 2017 to 2018. EPA implementation at individual residency programs began on July 1, 2018, and was completed on June 30, 2020. Each site was assigned 2 EPAs to implement and collected EPA microassessments on residents for those EPAs. The site clinical competency committees (CCC) used these microassessments to make summative entrustment decisions. Data submitted to the independent deidentified data repository every 6 months included the number of microassessments collected per resident per EPA and CCC summative entrustment decisions.

Results: Twenty-eight sites were selected to participate in the program and represented geographic and size variability, community, and university-based programs. Over the course of the 2-year pilot programs reported on 14 to 180 residents. Overall, 6,272 formative microassessments were collected (range, 0 to 1144 per site). Each resident had between 0 and 184 microassessments. The mean number of microassessments per resident was 5.6 (SD = 13.4) with a median of 1 [interquartile range (IQR) = 6]. There were 1,763 summative entrustment ratings assigned to 497 unique residents. The average number of observations for entrustment was 3.24 (SD 3.61) with a median of 2 (IQR 3). In general, PGY1 residents were entrusted at the level of direct supervision and PGY5 residents were entrusted at unsupervised practice or teaching others. For each EPA other than the consult EPA, the degree of entrustment reported by the CCC increased by resident level.

Conclusions: These data provide evidence that widespread implementation of EPAs across general surgery programs is possible, but variable. They provide meaningful data that graduating chief residents are entrusted by their faculty to perform without supervision for several common general surgical procedures and highlight areas to target for the successful widespread implementation of EPAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Competency-Based Education / methods
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Pilot Projects