Send to

Choose Destination
Med Educ. 2017 Sep;51(9):942-952. doi: 10.1111/medu.13335. Epub 2017 May 9.

Integrated and implicit: how residents learn CanMEDS roles by participating in practice.

Author information

Centre for Education Development and Research in Health Professions (CEDAR), University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.
Research Centre for Talent Development in Higher Education and Society, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, the Netherlands.
Centre for Medical Education, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK.
School of Social Sciences, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK.
Department of Internal Medicine, University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.



Learning outcomes for residency training are defined in competency frameworks such as the CanMEDS framework, which ultimately aim to better prepare residents for their future tasks. Although residents' training relies heavily on learning through participation in the workplace under the supervision of a specialist, it remains unclear how the CanMEDS framework informs practice-based learning and daily interactions between residents and supervisors.


This study aimed to explore how the CanMEDS framework informs residents' practice-based training and interactions with supervisors.


Constructivist grounded theory guided iterative data collection and analyses. Data were collected by direct observations of residents and supervisors, combined with formal and field interviews. We progressively arrived at an explanatory theory by coding and interpreting the data, building provisional theories and through continuous conversations. Data analysis drew on sensitising insights from communities of practice theory, which provided this study with a social learning perspective.


CanMEDS roles occurred in an integrated fashion and usually remained implicit during interactions. The language of CanMEDS was not adopted in clinical practice, which seemed to impede explicit learning interactions. The CanMEDS framework seemed only one of many factors of influence in practice-based training: patient records and other documents were highly influential in daily activities and did not always correspond with CanMEDS roles. Additionally, the position of residents seemed too peripheral to allow them to learn certain aspects of the Health Advocate and Leader roles.


The CanMEDS framework did not really guide supervisors' and residents' practice or interactions. It was not explicitly used as a common language in which to talk about resident performance and roles. Therefore, the extent to which CanMEDS actually helps improve residents' learning trajectories and conversations between residents and supervisors about residents' progress remains questionable. This study highlights the fact that the reification of competency frameworks into the complexity of practice-based learning is not a straightforward exercise.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center