Regulatory organizations have recently emphasized the importance of structuring graduate medical education around mastery of core competencies. The difficulty is that core competencies attempt to distill a range of professional behaviors into arguable abstractions. As such, competencies can be difficult to grasp for trainees and faculty, who see them as unrelated to the intricacies of daily patient care. In this article, the authors describe how two initiatives are converging in a way that should make competencies tangible and relevant. One initiative is based on the idea that competencies will be more meaningful if trainees understand specifically how they relate to important professional activities in their own specialty. The authors suggest that there is a dyadic relationship between competencies and major professional activities in pediatric medicine. They also suggest that these relationships should be discussed as part of the process by which trainees are entrusted to perform clinical activities without direct supervision. The other initiative proposes to construct narrative milestones that provide a picture of what progression toward mastery of core competencies might look like. Together, the authors argue, these two initiatives should illuminate the core competencies by providing relevant clinical context and valuable educational substance.
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