South Atlantic Society of Electrophysiology for Allied Professionals Holds Twenty-Year Anniversary Meeting in September

Bob Roth, Executive Director, SASEAP
Bob Roth, Executive Director, SASEAP

The South Atlantic Society of Electrophysiology for Allied Professionals (SASEAP) celebrates their twenty-year anniversary this year. Their upcoming annual conference takes place September 12-14 at the Embassy Suites Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

SASEAP is a volunteer, accredited, continuing education (CE) provider for EP allied professionals. SASEAP originally focused on the South Atlantic region of the U.S., but now draws attendees from the entire country. 

Starting with fewer than 75 attendees, the yearly SASEAP workshop now draws at least 250 RNs, technicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.

SASEAP was formed in 1994 by allied professionals who saw the need for continuing education in the emerging field of EP. At that point, the only educational sessions focused on electrophysiologists and EP research. While the situation has improved with respect to education for EP allied professionals, SASEAP remains the only conference entirely devoted to APs.  

SASEAP’s goals are twofold: first, to present a relevant, meaningful, and cost-effective learning opportunity for EP allied professionals; and second, to provide an opportunity for these APs to network and learn from each other. In addition, in recognition of how difficult it can be to find funding for off-site education, SASEAP strives to keep attendance costs low. Thanks to frugal management and support from EP equipment suppliers, SASEAP has not increased its registration fees for ten years. The organizers also provide registration assistance where needed in the form of grants and discounts.

Craig Swygman, RN, Senior EP Technologist at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, who frequently speaks at the Heart Rhythm annual sessions and other conferences, comments, “The past 20 years have seen an exponential growth both in the number of EP laboratories and allied professionals working in this exciting field. Parallel to this growth has been the need for quality education for allied professionals. SASEAP has been one of the leaders in providing a high-quality annual conference. SASEAP consistently gives attendees access to experts in the field of EP, in addition to networking opportunities with their colleagues from the Southeast and beyond. I am proud to have been involved in SASEAP through the years.”

SASEAP has been held for years in Myrtle Beach so that EP professionals can attend with their families, learn from qualified instructors, network among themselves, and talk with industry sponsors in a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere away from their workplaces. SASEAP combines classroom education with panel discussions, certification reviews, and hands-on labs. The SASEAP workshop runs from Friday through Sunday. Friday sessions are divided into multiple tracks: basic EP for the novice, advanced EP for seasoned professionals, and clinical EP for outpatient staff. Friday ends with a welcome reception. Intensive sessions on Saturday and Sunday end after lunch to allow time for networking or just relaxing at the beach.

“As someone who has attended many different EP conferences over the past 12 years, I have to say that SASEAP is by far my favorite. I love the fact that the conference spans the entire EP spectrum…offering something for everyone whether you are new to the EP lab or perhaps a more seasoned practitioner. The teaching methods are so diverse and include lectures, roundtable discussions, audience participation quizzes, certification reviews, and my favorite, hands-on learning. SASEAP simply focuses on the learning needs of the hands-on clinician,” says Kelly Williams, RN, EP Lab Manager at Parkridge Medical Center and current SASEAP Board President. “It is so important for allied professionals to have a venue tailored specifically for their specialty. With cardiac electrophysiology being such a unique field, it is refreshing to attend a conference where people can actually relate to some of the issues we face as we take care of these cardiac patients. For me, SASEAP has provided the perfect setting for self validation. I get the opportunity to see my counterparts from other labs and learn about their successes and failures. It is so refreshing to see that other labs have the same struggles as our lab; likewise, it is rewarding to share solutions that our lab has discovered.”

Support for SASEAP over the past twenty years has been phenomenal. Speakers at SASEAP are there because of their desire to interact with and educate the attendees. SASEAP has been honored by many distinguished contributors. Even though SASEAP does not compensate its speakers, each year a number of accomplished electrophysiologists and EP staff members donate their time and effort to advance continuing education for EP allied professionals. 

“It has been wonderful to have an organization like SASEAP in the southeast. It is a unique institution that brings together and educates a number of people in the field,” says Venk Gottipaty, MD, PhD, FACC, Principal Investigator for Electrophysiology at the South Carolina Heart Center. “In my two decades in this field, I’ve watched it go from being a field that only the geeks knew about, to a mainstream specialty with its own robust society and even FHRS membership. From doing EP studies in a closet stuck far away from ‘The’ cath lab, to now even being located on the same floor…sometimes. The value we bring to our patients is tremendous, and is measured in quantity and quality of life improvement, practice patterns based on unequivocal clinical trials. We have gone from using external defibrillators hooked to intracardiac catheters causing nothing short of an “atomic bomb” explosion inside the heart, to doing ablations with freezing laughing gas. The challenge of treating ephemeral and transient electrical abnormalities that could be lethal remains a truism even today.”

Another frequent speaker at SASEAP, Randolph Cooper, MD, FACC of Wake Heart and Vascular, comments, “I have fond memories of SASEAP. I have been to all sorts of industry-sponsored and national meetings all over the country with MDs and support staff. I have never been to anything like SASEAP. No hidden agendas — just excellent teaching from folks down in the trenches of the EP labs and clinics. These are the folks that can teach the most — people with the hands-on experience. The meeting itself is low pressure, fun, and extremely informative. As an electrophysiologist, I feel that SASEAP has made and will continue to make me and the staff I work with better clinicians.”

SASEAP sessions typically range from classroom instruction, panel discussions, and interactive sessions with electronic audience feedback, to hands-on labs for device programming or porcine heart dissection. All this leads to a weekend that balances education, networking, and fun.

“I was first able to experience SASEAP as a newly hired employee in the Spartanburg Regional EP Lab. Foreign to the new area of cardiology, I was looking for an opportunity to learn more about EP. The sessions were great. They were geared toward me as an AHP, and the information I received was something I could take home and apply to my practice. It was beneficial to be able to interact with the vendors, ask questions I had about their products, and feel like I was who they were there to teach. The highlight of that year was when I won the heart model and a Fogoros book (both of which are still in our EP resource area) during one of the drawings,” offers Josh Barone, RN, Charge Nurse at Spartanburg Regional. “Now as charge nurse, I look forward to taking my staff to SASEAP each year that it is possible, knowing that I can count on the content of the seminar to be appropriate and up to date based on the new technology in the ever-changing EP world. SASEAP has also been a resource for meeting fellow EP techs and RNs who share many of the same challenges that we as AHPs share, such as moderate sedation, scheduling, and time management in the device clinic. Overall, I believe that SASEAP has been a key factor in the education of the staff in our lab in Spartanburg. Its leaders have made every effort to make sure that our lab, as well as labs like ours, has had the opportunity to be a part of this great yearly event. As an AHP, I look forward to seeing the future of EP and the new experiences that I’ll have at SASEAP.”

Each year, for the past 20 years, the SASEAP Board uses their experience and suggestions from prior attendees to develop the program for the coming year. This keeps the conference relevant and has led to situations where sessions, such as an atrial fibrillation (AF) seminar, were presented at SASEAP before other, larger conferences.    

“At present all of the Board of Directors’ attention is focused on providing a quality annual seminar, which truly involves a lot of effort. 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,” said Michael Sipes, RN, Mission St. Joseph’s and past SASEAP Board President.

This year’s program includes cardiac electrophysiology for the new or advanced professional (separate sessions), a heart dissection lab, updates on sedation and antiarrhythmic medications, a historical perspective on EP with notes on its future, and sessions on wearable cardiac defibrillators, anticoagulants for AF stroke prevention, lead extraction, scar-related VT, treating dysrhythmias, issues related to LV lead placement, remote device monitoring, optimal device programming, and dealing with emotional and psychological issues relating to ICDs. 

It is hard to imagine a field more prone to change than cardiac electrophysiology. Technology changes affecting the size and capability of ICDs, mapping, contact-sensing catheters, remote monitoring, and wireless/leadless technologies (to name a few) join improved cardiac understanding and new regulations and practices to mandate regular, intensive education for EP practitioners.  

Ed Hanna, industry expert and a long-term SASEAP supporter, says, “Science and technology have pushed the limits of our capabilities and, in doing so, have greatly stretched the responsibilities of EP staff everywhere. Thankfully, SASEAP has provided an incredibly powerful resource by providing a relaxed learning atmosphere to allied health professionals via the confluence of science, medicine, technology, industry experts, and EP physicians.” 

EP allied professionals should take a good look at SASEAP. Here EP APs offer education to EP APs. SASEAP compares favorably with other conferences in terms of educational opportunities for allied professionals or simple cost-effectiveness. Many states now require completed continuing education for recertification. SASEAP, which typically offers at least 13 contact hours each year, can go a long way toward meeting those requirements. As Josh Barone says, “In a time when earning CE credits pertaining to your profession is a challenge, SASEAP has provided enough credits within the seminar to meet the hours required by my licensure.” In addition, for those who are professionally dedicated to electrophysiology and are looking for a way to both grow professionally and help others, there are occasional openings on the SASEAP Board. 

“I enjoy attending SASEAP as I have for over seven years,” says Nancy Winn, RN, EP Lab Manager at Emory Healthcare. “My first year, I was so intrigued with the vast topics, speakers, and the vendors that I wanted to be more than just a person in the audience. I was so impressed by the program that the following year I asked if I could be a part of the SASEAP team. I have been on the board ever since, and every year the speakers and topics are more interesting and relate to what I do every day of my life.” Nancy has also spoken at SASEAP. “The first time I spoke, I was so nervous standing in front of a large audience, that I lost my voice. I became more relaxed over the years because the audience is my ally.  SASEAP compliments your basic knowledge of EP and expands on it. You learn more because of the different knowledge levels of the speakers. You are updated on new technology, research, and what labs are doing differently.” Talk to a SASEAP Board Member at the workshop to learn more.

You can learn more about the organization and this year’s conference by going to www.SASEAP.org

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