Entrustment Decision Making in Clinical Training

Olle Ten Cate, Danielle Hart, Felix Ankel, Jamiu Busari, Robert Englander, Nicholas Glasgow, Eric Holmboe, William Iobst, Elise Lovell, Linda S. Snell, Claire Touchie, Elaine Van Melle, Keith Wycliffe-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

301 Scopus citations


The decision to trust a medical trainee with the critical responsibility to care for a patient is fundamental to clinical training. When carefully and deliberately made, such decisions can serve as significant stimuli for learning and also shape the assessment of trainees. Holding back entrustment decisions too much may hamper the trainee's development toward unsupervised practice. When carelessly made, however, they jeopardize patient safety. Entrustment decision-making processes, therefore, deserve careful analysis. Members (including the authors) of the International Competency-Based Medical Education Collaborative conducted a content analysis of the entrustment decision-making process in health care training during a two-day summit in September 2013 and subsequently reviewed the pertinent literature to arrive at a description of the critical features of this process, which informs this article. The authors discuss theoretical backgrounds and terminology of trust and entrustment in the clinical workplace. The competency-based movement and the introduction of entrustable professional activities force educators to rethink the grounds for assessment in the workplace. Anticipating a decision to grant autonomy at a designated level of supervision appears to align better with health care practice than do most current assessment practices. The authors distinguish different modes of trust and entrustment decisions and elaborate five categories, each with related factors, that determine when decisions to trust trainees are made: the trainee, supervisor, situation, task, and the relationship between trainee and supervisor. The authors' aim in this article is to lay a theoretical foundation for a new approach to workplace training and assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-198
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

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Copyright © by the Association of American Medical Colleges.


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