September 30, 2019

Boot camp teaches skills to advanced practice clinicians

More than 500 nurse practitioners and physician assistants from 42 states came to Vanderbilt University Medical Center from Sept. 9 to 13 for the eighth annual ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp.

Attendees of the 2019 ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp hone their skills in Vanderbilt’s Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA) lab. Photo: Anne Rayner; VU

More than 500 nurse practitioners and physician assistants from 42 states came to Vanderbilt University Medical Center from Sept. 9 to 13 for the eighth annual ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp.

The event, which took place at the Student Life Center and the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA) Lab in Light Hall, was an opportunity for critical care nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to receive specialized critical care training to improve patient care.

“This is one of the only conferences in the country that provides focused education for critical care NPs and PAs,” said April Kapu, DNP, RN, associate nursing officer for VUMC Advanced Practice and director of the Office of Advanced Practice. Co-chairs for this annual event are Janna Landsperger, ACNP, medical intensive care nurse practitioner, and Billy Cameron, MSN, ACNP, surgical intensive care nurse practitioner.

A busy week of sessions and hands-on activities included an Advanced Practice Leadership Summit and reception, two days of adult and pediatric informational sessions at the Student Life Center, two ultrasound workshops and several skills labs. In the latter, participants responded to real-world simulations with mannequins in scenarios such as central line insertion, ultrasound use, airway management and emergency response. This year’s boot camp added more emphasis on ECMO, a special device that temporarily takes over the functions of the lungs and heart.

NPs and PAs make up more than 300,000 clinicians nationwide and more than 1,200 at Vanderbilt alone. These clinicians are educated in nationally accredited programs, clinically trained and board certified in their area of practice.

Boot camp faculty include critical care NPs, PAs and physicians from multiple departments at Vanderbilt who volunteer their time as well as professionals from institutions nationwide.

“It’s really important for us to bring experts from their respective fields of practice to be on our conference faculty,” Cameron said. “Whether they are here at VUMC or other institutions in the country, they are able to bring unique aspects of new evidence or their own research that hopefully relate to the learners and help toward implementation of new ideas in critical care.”

“Our goal is that in educating NPs and PAs that patient care and critical care is improved,” Landsperger said. “We have probably impacted 1,500 NPs and PAs over the last eight years. Giving them the education that they need is in a small way contributing to improved patient outcomes.”

Participants, mostly recent graduates and early career professionals, come from all over the country and their feedback helps inspire topics.

“The Critical Care NP/PA Boot Camp has provided an amazing opportunity to learn from world-class experts in their respective fields,” said Thomas Powell MSN, RN, FNP-BC, of

Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. “With topics as diverse as arrhythmia management, POC ultrasound and trauma, clinicians in every specialty will gain new insights to share with their teams.”

Kapu said the learning extends beyond boot camp. “We partner with people who come to boot camp in research studies, publications, and educational conferences,” she said. “You will notice a lot of Vanderbilt NPs and PAs have authored publications in critical care.”

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.

Each year, the conference honors the late Arthur Wheeler, MD, who was medical director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit and a champion of critical care NPs and PAs.

“We started boot camp in 2012 under Art’s mentorship, and one of his many legacies is his commitment to improving continuing education for NPs and PAs working in critical care,” Landsperger said. “In continuing this conference, we hope to advance NP/PA delivered critical care across the country.”