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Delegation and supervision

Responsibilities of supervisors and trainees

Overview and objectives

Female physician speaking to group of medical students


Medical trainees are expected to become more autonomous and accept greater responsibility as their training and experience increases. For this training to be successful while supporting safe care for patients, both supervisors and trainees must understand their roles and responsibilities.

Stethoscope and graduation cap

Medical education in Canada is evolving from a traditional time-based model to competency-based training. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's initiative is titled Competence by Design, and before that the College of Family Physicians of Canada launched the Triple C Competency-Based Curriculum. With a competency-based model, the supervisor effectively becomes a coach and the supervisor's feedback is part of the learning strategy. Teaching of trainees is often adapted and tailored to the individual based on factors such as their personal learning style, aptitudes, experiences, and training environment. The focus, at all times, is that care is patient-centred and that personal relationships are valued. Supervisors observe and provide feedback on the trainee's day-to-day performance as well as the acquisition of milestones and competencies specific to their stage of training. This makes it feasible for supervisors to determine when a trainee has the skills and experience needed to be trusted with performing specific tasks on their own, as well as what level of supervision is required.

This topic clarifies the expectations of both supervisors and trainees, and encourages working co-operatively to provide safe medical care to patients. It also provides information relevant to the learning environment, such as the impact of team dynamics and the role of the patient.


After completing this topic, medical trainees and supervisors should understand their respective roles and responsibilities, and the potential medical-legal implications of competency-based medical education.
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A Statement of Completion or CME credits are available.