How do supervising physicians decide to entrust residents with unsupervised tasks? A qualitative analysis

Kevin J. Choo, Vineet M. Arora, Paul Barach, Julie K. Johnson, Jeanne M. Farnan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Medical supervisors struggle to find meaningful ways to evaluate the preparedness of trainees to independently perform patient care tasks. The aim of this study was to describe the factors that influence how attending and resident physician perceptions of trust impact decision making. METHODS: Internal medicine residents and attending physicians at a tertiary academic medical center were interviewed during a single academic year. Participants were asked to describe, using the critical incident technique, entrustment decisions made during their clinical rotations. A deductive qualitative analysis using the entrustable professional activities framework was used. The inter-rater reliability was calculated using a generalized kappa statistic. RESULTS: Eighty-four percent (46/50) of residents and 88% (44/50) of attending physicians participated. The analysis yielded 535 discrete mentions of entrusting factors that were mapped to the following domains deductively, with inductively derived subthemes: trainee factors (eg, confidence, specialty plans), supervisor factors (eg, approachability), task factors (eg, situational characteristics) and systems factors (eg, workload). The inter-rater kappa between the 2 raters was 0.84. CONCLUSIONS: Factors influencing trust in a trainee are related to the supervisor, trainee, their relationship, task, and the environment. Attending physicians note early interactions and language cues as markers of trustworthiness. Attending physicians reported using perceived confidence as a gauge of the trainee's true ability and comfort. Attendings noted trainee absences, even those that comply with regulation, negatively affected willingness to entrust. Future studies are needed to develop better assessment instruments to understand how entrustment decisions for independent practice are made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-175
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of hospital medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Leadership and Management
  • Fundamentals and skills
  • Health Policy
  • Care Planning
  • Assessment and Diagnosis


Dive into the research topics of 'How do supervising physicians decide to entrust residents with unsupervised tasks? A qualitative analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this