AAEP Wellness Coverage: Using Competency-Based Education to Give Young Practitioners Feedback 

At the 2023 AAEP Convention, Drs. Jackie Christakos and Emma Read presented on competency-based education and entrustability scales for young veterinarians.
Veterinarian mentoring new graduate using competency-based education.
New graduates often aren’t prepared to work independently and require more supervision, but they can move up on the entrustability scale with more mentorship. | Getty Images

At a well-attended Table Topic at the 2023 AAEP Convention, AAEP board member Jackie Christakos, DVM, and AAEP past president Emma Read, DVM, MVSc, Dipl. ACVS, led a discussion on competency-based education (CBE), a new direction in student assessment.  

Competency-Based Education (CBE)

According to the nonprofit EDUCAUSE, “The competency-based education (CBE) approach allows students to advance based on their ability to master a skill or competency at their own pace regardless of environment. This method is tailored to meet different learning abilities and can lead to more efficient student outcomes.” The speakers explained that this method is now widely used in elementary and secondary schools, as well as in undergraduate, graduate, and professional educational programs. Session attendees included educators and practice owners with new graduates or internship programs. A military veterinarian also in attendance was excited to incorporate these ideas into his team assessments. 

Competency-Based Education for Equine Veterinarians

The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) released a competency-based model for use in veterinary schools about five years ago. The organization also created a website focused on competency-based veterinary education and assessment that is outcomes-based and learner-centered: https://cbve.org/.   

Christakos said the AAEP Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability’s Internship Subcommittee used the competency-based model and entrustment scales as a framework to create a model for assessing interns and early-career veterinarians. Because previous skills lists for entry-level equine veterinarians did not include the broader outcomes of professionalism, communication, financial acuity, and ethics, these crucial areas of competency were often overlooked in assessments. The new model incorporates these competencies into entrustable activities that allow simultaneous assessment of several competencies. These resources are available at https://aaep.org/aaep-equine-veterinary-sustainability-initiative/internships.  

Entrustable Professional Activities

The speakers explored the concept of Entrustable Professional Activities (EPA). They presented examples of everyday workplace activities incorporating multiple competencies to show the audience how to apply entrustability scales. A new graduate who is unable to work independently and requires a lot of supervision would fall on the low end of the scale. Later, that graduate might move up the scale when they can perform tasks more independently with the mentor present to answer questions.   

Importantly, communication with young practitioners surrounding their assessment must change, Read emphasized. “More constructive conversations put the learner in a more positive mindset,” she said. Using phrases such as, “This is what went well, so we’d like you to continue doing that,” and “You need to work on the following things to be even better next time,” can help the student or new practitioner have clear goals and feel satisfaction in their progress, she said. If a mentee is defensive or makes excuses, she recommends saying, “Here’s the trouble I’m having with what I am seeing …” 

Final Thoughts

In closing, Christakos and Read shared tips for successful mentoring of early career professionals. They recommended defining outcomes that both the mentor and mentee agree on, having informal reviews at regular intervals, and checking in frequently to ask, “How’s it going?” By using methods of feedback new graduates are familiar with, practices can yield better results. Better mentoring and helpful feedback can have a strong impact on keeping young veterinarians in equine practice. 

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