September 21, 2017

‘Boot camp’ draws critical care nurses from across nation

Vanderbilt’s already significant population of nurse practitioners and physician assistants swelled by more than 350 people recently, as attendees from 39 states came for the sixth annual ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp.

Two days of hands-on learning in Vanderbilt’s CELA lab were a highlight for participants of the sixth annual ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp. (photo by Steve Green)

Vanderbilt’s already significant population of nurse practitioners and physician assistants swelled by more than 350 people recently, as attendees from 39 states came for the sixth annual ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp.

The event, which took place from Sept. 11 to 14 at the Student Life Center and the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA) Lab in Light Hall, was an opportunity for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to sharpen critical care skills that they can take back to their medical facilities at home.

The boot camp’s faculty is composed of critical care nurse practitioners (ACNPs), physician assistants (PAs) and physicians from multiple departments at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) who volunteer their time.

“It’s really a labor of love and passion for critical care medicine that drives them,” said April Kapu, DNP, R.N., Associate Nursing Officer for VUMC Advanced Practice and director of the Office of Advanced Practice. “In addition, the physicians and pharmacists who speak are so supportive of NPs and PAs.”

A busy week of sessions and hands-on activities began with an Adult Critical Care Ultrasound Workshop, new this year. That was followed by the Advanced Practice Leadership Conference, which allowed team leaders, directors and chief nursing officers to come together for evidence-based discussion on topics including value in health care, outcomes of practice and business case development and leadership development.

The week wrapped up with lectures and panel discussions at the Student Life Center, including new breakout sessions and pediatric-specific content. A highlight for many were two days of hands-on learning in the CELA lab — one for adult critical care skills and one for pediatrics.

Participants responded to real-world simulations with mannequins in scenarios such as central line insertion, ultrasound, airway management and emergency response.

“As novice clinicians, we found boot camp to be incredibly informative,” said Phat Tran, ACNP, who came from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “The evidence-based focus of the presentations was particularly effective and will influence our practice going forward. The professional relationships we built here will prove invaluable as we progress in our careers, and we will definitely return in the future.”

Kapu and C. Lee Parmley, M.D., J.D., MMHC, Chief of Staff of Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital (VUH), were program directors of the boot camp.

“This is a wonderful time of year when our Critical Care Boot Camp takes place,” Parmley said. “Each time we try to make it better even though we are at a point where, due to available space and equipment, we realistically cannot make it bigger. This year we regret that Hurricane Irma made it impossible for a few Floridians to participate. We hope to see them here next year though.”

A rapidly growing field of health care providers, there are now more than 300,000 advanced practice nurses nationwide, and about 950 of them are at Vanderbilt, Kapu said.

They include Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners, Certified Nurse Midwives and Clinical Nurse Specialists. These practitioners are educated in nationally accredited programs, clinically trained and board certified in their area of practice.

The boot camp would not be possible without the dedication of VUMC’s own NPs and PAs, who plan the event each year as soon as the last one ends. The boot camp committee is chaired by Janna Landsperger, MSN, APRN, Medical Intensive Care nurse practitioner, and Billy Cameron, MSN, APRN, Surgical Intensive Care nurse practitioner, as well as members representing every intensive care unit.

“We continually assess and reassess what can make the conference the most meaningful for our targeted audience, and the breakout sessions are a recent result of those assessments,” he said. “We will be excited to get feedback as to their success.”

Each year, the camp honors the late Arthur Wheeler, M.D., who was medical director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit and a champion of advanced practice nursing and the boot camp.

“At the encouragement of my mentor, Art Wheeler, we started boot camp in 2012 to fill a void in critical care education,” Landsperger said.

“Our critical care boot camp provides nurse practitioners and physician assistants a multifaceted educational opportunity. Learners are offered state-of-the-art didactic education, hands-on learning and incredible networking opportunities.”