Competencies for Learners Across the Continuum

In fulfillment of its Mission, the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has established the following educational objectives to align with the ACGME core competencies. As a consequence, the School must ensure that before graduation every student will have demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the Faculty, the following:

Medical Knowledge

Competency Statement

Physicians must understand established and evolving biological, clinical, epidemiological and social-behavioral sciences and must be able to apply this knowledge to patient care. Learners will be able to:

  • MK1. Explain the biological, behavioral and social factors that promote health or predispose individuals to illness, and how these may be used in partnership with patients to predict, prevent or mitigate the onset of disease.
  • MK2. Demonstrate deep knowledge of the sciences essential for one’s chosen field of practice.
  • MK3. Demonstrate knowledge of the sciences that support other specialty fields as they relate to one’s own practice.
  • MK4. Demonstrate knowledge of the sciences underlying the common and important health and wellness issues affecting our society and other societies around the globe.
  • MK5. Demonstrate an appreciation for the importance of the sciences that underlie the effective practice of medicine and the resulting commitment to maintain an up-to-date fund of knowledge through continuous learning.
  • MK6. Apply knowledge of the scientific method, reproducible research, and experimental design in evaluating questions of interest.
  • MK7. Collect, analyze, and interpret new information to enhance knowledge in the various disciplines related to medicine.

Patient Care

Competency Statement

Physicians must consistently provide care that is compassionate, culturally competent, safe, efficient, cost sensitive, appropriate, and effective for the treatment of illness and the promotion of health. Learners will be able to:

  • PC1. Perform a problem-focused or complete history and physical examination as indicated, and to obtain necessary diagnostic studies, including imaging, laboratory and procedural tests.
  • PC2. Interpret clinical information and formulate a prioritized differential diagnosis that reflects the use of medical knowledge in a probabilistic reasoning process.
  • PC3. Formulate a management plan based on evaluation of the scientific evidence as well as on the patient’s values, cultural background, beliefs and behaviors; critically review the literature with an understanding of the levels of evidence provided by typical experimental or study designs, measurement techniques, and analyses; recognize common forms of bias.
  • PC4. Implement a comprehensive management plan that would include performing indicated procedures within the scope of one’s training
  • PC5. Utilize knowledge support tools such as evidence-based diagnostic criteria, management guidelines and point-of-care information resources.
  • PC6. Utilize informatics and health information technology in support of patient care in a manner that reflects understanding of their capabilities, limitations, benefits, and risks. Examples include the electronic health record, computerized physician order entry, decision support systems and messaging systems.
  • PC7. Demonstrate clinical judgment that is safe and commensurate for the level of training.
  • PC8. Re-examine and address prior decisions when desired outcomes are not achieved and/or the patient is dissatisfied.

Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Competency Statement

Physicians must be able to communicate in ways that result in safe, culturally sensitive, effective and respectful information exchange and create beneficial partnerships with patients, their families, and other health professionals. Learners will be able to:

  • ICS1. Discuss the enduring value of effective relationships and the factors that can facilitate or impede their formation, including power imbalances and social, economic and cultural differences.
  • ICS2. Demonstrate sensitivity to the diversity with which people perceive, think, learn, communicate, and make decisions, both individually and in groups, and an understanding of how these processes might be impacted by illness.
  • ICS3. Explain the elements of a validated provider-patient communication model, and demonstrate appropriate components of the model during patient interactions.
  • ICS4. Discuss the strengths, limitations and appropriate applications of various communication modalities, and utilize verbal, non-verbal, written, electronic, graphic, synchronous, and asynchronous modalities in appropriate ways.
  • ICS5. Discuss the challenges and opportunities created by cross-cultural communications and their potential impact on patient care, health disparities and health outcomes, and engage support systems that facilitate cross-cultural communication.
  • ICS6. Discuss the elements of effective team building and utilize appropriate techniques to create, participate in, and lead effective teams.
  • ICS7. Establish and utilize effective communication strategies with patients, families, and healthcare colleagues, regardless of their cultural background.
  • ICS8. Build and sustain effective relationships in a wide variety of settings and with persons from diverse backgrounds.
  • ICS9. Effectively manage interpersonal conflict and provide and receive constructive feedback.
  • ICS10. Disclose medical error to patients, families and health care providers in a manner that is truthful, sensitive, responsible, constructive and supportive.


Competency Statement

Physicians must possess the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to carry out professional responsibilities, adhere to ethical standards and establish and maintain productive, respectful relationships with patients and colleagues. Professionalism applies to formal and informal interactions in education systems, in health care practice settings, and in the wider community. Learners will be able to:

  • PR1. Discuss the duties and obligations of the medical profession, its health care institutions and its individual practitioners to patients, communities and society.
  • PR2. Place the primacy of the patient in all health care endeavors.
  • PR3. Work for a more just health care system, including the ability to advocate effectively on behalf of individual patients and patient populations.
  • PR4. Discuss the principles of biomedical ethics and apply these principles in practical contexts.
  • PR5. Demonstrate honesty and transparency in all dealings with patients, learners, and colleagues.
  • PR6. Comply with the professional and legal standards that safeguard patient confidentiality.
  • PR7. Discuss the concepts surrounding conflict of interest and competing priorities; identify and manage these in ways that maintain the primacy of patient interests and the health of the public.
  • PR8. Demonstrate compassion and respect for all persons regardless of differences in values, beliefs and experiences.
  • PR9. Demonstrate awareness of the vulnerability of patients and the inherent power differentials in organizational and interpersonal relationships, and respect the boundaries that define therapeutic relationships.
  • PR10. Seek excellence in all professional endeavors.

Practice-Based Learning and Improvement

Competency Statement

Physicians must be able to continuously improve patient care by investigating and evaluating outcomes of care and by engaging in learning activities which involve critical appraisal and assimilation of scientific evidence and application of relevant knowledge to individual patients and populations. To demonstrate competence in practice-based learning and improvement, each learner will be able to:

  • PBLI1. Systematically collect, monitor, and analyze data describing current performance at the individual, team and/or systems levels in an effort to achieve the highest possible quality of care.
  • PBLI 2. Continuously pursue knowledge regarding best practices and optimal patient outcomes.
  • PBLI 3. Compare data about current performance at the individual, team, and/or systems level with expected outcomes, and identify and implement the learning strategies needed to improve performance.
  • PBLI 4. Develop and implement improvement projects using a systematic approach that employs the principles of improvement science.
  • PBLI 5. Recognize, acknowledge and analyze medical errors and devise system-based strategies that would prevent similar errors in the future.

Systems-Based Practice

Competency Statement

Physicians must understand and respond to the larger context and system of healthcare and effectively call on system resources to provide care that is of optimal value. Learners will be able to:

  • SBP1. Explain why healthcare of optimal value is safe, effective, patient-centered, culturally sensitive, timely, efficient, and equitable.
  • SBP 2. Explain basic principles of systems science and the ways in which people, processes, technology and policy combine to form systems.
  • SBP 3. Describe the basic organization of health care systems, including the various relationships between patients, providers, practices, institutions, insurers and benefits managers, community health organizations, federal and state regulators, accrediting bodies, professional organizations, licensing boards, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and legislators.
  • SBP 4. Compare and contrast the local systems in which acute patient care and health maintenance are provided, such as emergency departments, outpatient clinics, hospitals, mental health clinics, public health clinics, pharmacies, etc.; coordinate patient care within these systems.
  • SBP 5. Describe different health professionals’ roles and responsibilities within the health care delivery system and maximally utilize the capabilities of all healthcare team members to achieve optimal patient outcomes.
  • SBP 6. Discuss the key elements of leadership, management and organizational behavior and how these elements apply in teams, healthcare organizations, and society; demonstrate these in one’s own leadership roles.
  • SBP 7. Describe how public health and health policy shape the nature of our healthcare system and discuss how and when clinicians must interact with public health officials and policymakers.
  • SBP 8. Explain risk, complexity, resilience and related concepts that influence the performance of humans and the systems in which they work.
  • SBP 9. Design, analyze and evaluate healthcare microsystems, and propose interventions that will improve quality, safety and cost-effectiveness.