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Med Educ. 2017 Sep;51(9):892-902. doi: 10.1111/medu.13339. Epub 2017 May 10.

Trust and risk: a model for medical education.

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Prince of Wales Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Office of Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Office of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



Health care delivery, and therefore medical education, is an inherently risky business. Although control mechanisms, such as external audit and accreditation, are designed to manage risk in clinical settings, another approach is 'trust'. The use of entrustable professional activities (EPAs) represents a deliberate way in which this is operationalised as a workplace-based assessment. Once engaged with the concept, clinical teachers and medical educators may have further questions about trust.


This narrative overview of the trust literature explores how risk, trust and control intersect with current thinking in medical education, and makes suggestions for potential directions of enquiry.


Beyond EPAs, the importance of trust in health care and medical education is reviewed, followed by a brief history of trust research in the wider literature. Interpersonal and organisational levels of trust and a model of trust from the management literature are used to provide the framework with which to decipher trust decisions in health care and medical education, in which risk and vulnerability are inherent.


In workplace learning and assessment, the language of 'trust' may offer a more authentic and practical vocabulary than that of 'competency' because clinical and professional risks are explicitly considered. There are many other trust relationships in health care and medical education. At the most basic level, it is helpful to clearly delineate who is the trustor, the trustee, and for what task. Each relationship has interpersonal and organisational elements. Understanding and considered utilisation of trust and control mechanisms in health care and medical education may lead to systems that maturely manage risk while actively encouraging trust and empowerment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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