September 9, 2020

VUMC Nursing’s ‘Boot Camp’ hones critical care skills

About 250 nurse practitioners and physician assistants nationwide gathered over Zoom from Sept. 2-4 for the ninth annual ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp, the first in its history to be entirely virtual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 250 nurse practitioners and physician assistants nationwide participated in VUMC’s ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp.

by Matt Batcheldor

About 250 nurse practitioners and physician assistants nationwide gathered over Zoom from Sept. 2-4 for the ninth annual ACNP/PA Critical Care Boot Camp, the first in its history to be entirely virtual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was an opportunity for critical care nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to receive specialized critical care training to improve patient care. It began with an Advanced Practice Leadership Summit and virtual reception, followed by two days of digital informational sessions featuring 26 speakers.

The Sept. 3 sessions focused on fundamental critical care, with sessions such as “Common Neurologic Emergencies for the Non-Neurologist” and “Heart Mechanics: Left Heart Failure and the Devices that Support.” The Sept. 4 sessions focused on critical care for COVID-19 patients, including “Epidemiology and Pathogenesis of COVID Outbreak” and “Patient and Family Centered Care during a Pandemic.”

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

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.

April Kapu, DNP, RN, associate nursing officer for VUMC Advanced Practice and director of the Office of Advanced Practice, said she and other organizers realized by May that the event would have to be converted to virtual or canceled due to the worsening coronavirus crisis. Every speaker invited prior to the pandemic agreed to convert their presentation to a virtual one.

“It was pretty overwhelming to see everybody willing to come back amidst being incredibly busy,” she said. “All are actively working in critical care. Everybody said the same thing: They didn’t want to see a year go by without Boot Camp.”

Registrants for the conference will have special access to the information provided in the sessions, even after they are over.

“We’re recording all of the events so that the registrants can go back and watch each session through the end of the year, because we know a lot of people are actively working and can’t stay all day long for two whole days,” Kapu said.

Some yearly events, such as the hands-on skills labs for adult and pediatric audiences, were canceled this year due to the virtual format.

“The in-person boot camp is one of a kind,” said Todd Rice, MD, MSc, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and one of the presenters at the Boot Camp. “It truly is the premier conference for advanced practice providers. And it provides hands-on, simulation and didactic training — it is all-encompassing.

“The virtual format won’t be able to have some of these features, but it still is set up to maintain the Boot Camp reputation as the most up-to-date educational conference available.”

Rice, vice president for Clinical Trial Innovation and Operations in the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), also directs the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) and the Medical ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) Program and leads VUMC’s MICU strategy for the care of COVID-19 patients.

VUMC is a national leader in advanced practice nursing. The Boot Camp is one of the only conferences in the country that provides focused education for critical care NPs and PAs, who 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.

“Our Boot Camp gives VUMC’s advanced practice professionals the opportunity to share our deep well of experience with a national audience,” said Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, Executive Chief Nursing Officer. “Our mission has never been more important than during this health crisis, and it is so impressive to see VUMC maintain its leadership role in this virtual format.”

Boot camp is planned by 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 MICU and a champion of critical care NPs and PAs.

“There were many thoughts of appreciation and support for boot camp as well as one another throughout COVID19,” Kapu said. “One attendee said ‘the speakers were so engaging, that it didn’t feel like virtual at all.’”