SASEAP's New President: Interview with Michael Sipes, RN

Describe your medical background. What made you decide to work in EP? Actually, I started in healthcare as a housekeeper in the early 1970s. Over the next few years, after having varying majors at several colleges, I supported myself in a variety of ancillary roles in healthcare, such as orderly, nursing assistant, EMT, etc. In a rare moment of epiphany, I realized it would make more sense to make healthcare my career and education a hobby! So I attended Northeastern University in Boston, graduating from the School of Nursing in 1980. I spent 16 years in Critical Care until transferring in 1996 to the Cath Lab at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. I was initially recruited to provide sedation for the EP procedures, but I was soon hooked.There's always something new to learn or a new procedure on the horizon. Even after 10 years, I still get excited about what we do. How long have you been involved with SASEAP? How have things changed over the years? I first attended SASEAP's workshop nine years ago, when I was still very, very new to EP. It was the first exposure I had to life and learning outside of my own lab, and it was a real eye-opener. Not only did the sessions help me to begin to make sense out of this confusing field I found myself in, but I was able to meet, discuss with and learn from other Allied Professionals (APs). I participated in a panel discussion at SASEAP four years ago, then joined the Board the next year. I think that the most striking change in SASEAP since I first attended is how it has grown in both the number of attendees and in the quality and timeliness of the subjects presented. When I first attended SASEAP, most attendees were either aquaintances or were familiar faces, and since EP was still so new, many topics were focused on the fundamentals. However, last year we had over 250 attendees, and finished the sessions with an atrial fibrillation (AF) seminar. We were ahead of the Heart Rhythm Society's AF seminar by a year! Describe the goals of SASEAP. In addition, besides their annual symposium, does SASEAP offer or take part in other programs or opportunities as well? SASEAP's goals are two-fold: first, we strive to present a relevant, meaningful, and cost-effective learning opportunity for Allied Professionals; and second, we want to provide an opportunity for these APs to network and learn from each other. In fact, some of the most useful information I have taken back to my lab was gathered from the Friday night reception. At present all of the Board of Directors' attention is focused on providing a quality annual seminar, which truly involves a lot of effort. Whether or not we expand to other areas or venues is a topic for future discussion. What are some of the topics that will be covered at this year's workshop? How do you keep attendees updated on changing policies in EP? This year's workshop is still in the planning stages, so we do not yet have set topics. We will hopefully have a preliminary schedule soon, and we will be sure to post it on our Web site as soon as possible. All SASEAP Board members are, and must be, actively employed in the EP arena. Since the Board is composed of volunteer members from a scattered geographical area, we are in a unique position to see trends, changes, etc. that are occurring in the field in general. We try to bring these observations in mind when planning our session. Of course, much of our course content is dependent on the availability of our speakers, who are also volunteers. What are some of the common questions and/or comments that you hear from SASEAP attendees? For example, what are the main concerns in their labs? Two of the most recurring concerns I hear, not only at SASEAP but at other meetings as well, are the recruitment and retention of experienced and/or motivated personnel, and providing education and training for existing staff, especially with new programs and within a hospital's budget for education. Describe some memorable moments at past SASEAP symposiums. I would have to say that for me, the most memorable event was the opportunity to meet Dr. Mel Scheinman. For the very new to EP, Dr. Scheinman performed the first ablation in a human, and is one of the fathers of modern EP. He has been a speaker at SASEAP twice, and I had the great pleasure to meet him on the last occasion. He is a true gentleman, and an ardent supporter of Allied Professionals. What changes, if any, would you like to make this year as President of SASEAP? I would like to see us expand our services to attract more attendees from a larger region. We have for years served the Carolinas, North Georgia, and parts of Tennessee and Virginia, but I would like to see all of the Southeast involved. We would also like to welcome folks from other parts of the country as well. I personally would like to see similar programs take root in other areas; we have been doing this quite well for 12 years and could act as a model for other programs. In addition, I want SASEAP to provide more learning opportunities for folks who work in EP but outside the labs. Too often we concentrate on the hospital experience and forget the people in the offices, clinics, etc. Is there anything else you'd like to add? At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I want to encourage Allied Professionals to take a good look at SASEAP. We are APs offering education for APs. Whether you have been in the field for 10 months or 10 years, we offer something of relevance. In terms of cost-effectiveness or "Bang-for-the-Buck", I think if one compares SASEAP to HRS, in terms of educational opportunities for Allied Professionals, we look pretty good. Give us a look at www.SASEAP.org.