EP Education

Enhancing EP Education for the Allied Professional: A Collaborative Regional Approach

Kelly M. Bergen, MSN, AGACNP-BC, FHRS, CCDS1 and Robin A. Leahy, BSN, RN, FHRS, CCDS2

1Electrophysiology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, CaroMont Heart & Vascular Institute, Gastonia, North Carolina; 2Director, Electrophysiology Services, Atrium Health - Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, Charlotte, North Carolina

Kelly M. Bergen, MSN, AGACNP-BC, FHRS, CCDS1 and Robin A. Leahy, BSN, RN, FHRS, CCDS2

1Electrophysiology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, CaroMont Heart & Vascular Institute, Gastonia, North Carolina; 2Director, Electrophysiology Services, Atrium Health - Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, Charlotte, North Carolina

It all began with an idea during the Heart Rhythm Society’s (HRS) Annual Scientific Sessions in 2016. Three allied professional women, each from a different health system in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, met during one of the breaks and discussed the impact of the sessions on our programs at home. Included in the conversation were Robyn Abel, MPA, CCDS, CEPS, Electrophysiology Program Manager at Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina; Kelly Bergen, MSN, AGACNP-BC, FHRS, CCDS, Electrophysiology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at CaroMont Heart & Vascular in Gastonia, North Carolina; and Robin Leahy, BSN, RN, FHRS, CCDS, Electrophysiology Service Line Director for Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. The ideas, best practices, and science at the annual sessions were inspiring and created a desire to return to our institutions to implement what we had learned.

Our conversation turned towards our coworkers, the dedicated allied professionals on our teams who remained at home working in the hospitals and clinics. Although the number of allied professionals who attend the annual sessions each year continues to grow, it is still not always feasible for many of these dedicated EP clinicians to attend. Therefore, the idea was born: why not create a meeting in our region so that all of our coworkers could attend? We visualized an event that was condensed into a single day and designed specifically for allied professionals. The next question was how to make this idea into a reality.

Regional allied professional educational programs for electrophysiology are not a novel concept. For example, past efforts by the HRS provided regionally based EP education for allied professionals that were sponsored and implemented on the local level with health system partners in various geographies across the United States. Although the sessions were extremely well received, funding was not sustainable, and the program was abandoned with hopes of resurrecting it using a “program in a box” model. In the interim, local and regional communities have worked to build institutionally based programs.

As a committee of three, we were determined to design a symposium focused on quality EP education that also provided opportunities for networking, best practice sharing, and innovation. Each of the three co-chairs of the planning committee has a busy, full-time role within their individual health systems, so we searched for the best way to manage the administrative details of such a large undertaking. We ultimately partnered with the Charlotte Area Health Education Center (AHEC), which is part of a larger North Carolina AHEC that promotes educational opportunities in order to advance quality healthcare in the region it serves. Charlotte AHEC provides logistical and administrative support for the symposium, freeing the committee co-chairs to focus on designing content and arranging expert presenters. With the guidance of the planning committee, Charlotte AHEC secured and managed unrestricted educational grants from electrophysiology-related pharmaceutical and technology industry partners. This approach was successful in offsetting costs associated with the program while keeping registration fees affordable for attendees. The symposium is co-sponsored by the healthcare systems represented by the committee co-chairs including Atrium Health, CaroMont Health, and Novant Health. The Charlotte AHEC and HRS also co-sponsor the event, offering planning and promotional support.

ExPlore: Innovations in Electrophysiology for the Allied Professional symposium is now in its third year and continues to grow. Over 300 individuals from throughout the Southeast participated in the program during its first two years. In keeping with its name, the symposium includes general sessions focused specifically on the latest innovations and trends in EP. In addition, breakout sessions focus on topics relating to the EP lab and device clinic, as well as on specific topics in heart rhythm care for the allied professional (including advanced practice providers such as CRNAs, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants) practicing in a hospital or clinic. Traditional didactic style teaching methods are enhanced by hands-on sessions. Pig heart dissection and opportunities to work with equipment such as temporary pacemakers, CIED programmers, mapping and ablation equipment, as well as other EP technology have been included.

Program content is designed to address timely and relevant research, as well as to share ideas and best practices at the symposium. Each year, feedback elicited from participants has also guided the program content for the upcoming symposium. This has led to inclusion of sessions not just on the latest innovations, but also on foundational concepts in EP such as ECG tracings and pacing maneuvers in an EP study. Basic and advanced sessions that meet the needs of a wide range of participants, including both entry-level professionals as well as seasoned veterans of the field, are now included in the program. The addition of basic EP curriculum content has also drawn non-EP allied professionals who are curious about electrophysiology, potentially attracting future EP clinicians to enhance our EP workforce.

Presenters have included expert allied professionals and physicians primarily from the Southeast region and beyond. This year, highlights of the meeting include:

  • VT cornerstones of treatment: arrhythmia differentiation, pharmacologic therapy, and ablation;
  • Low fluoro and fluoroless techniques for ablation and biventricular device implantation;
  • A “reverse classroom” session on atrial fibrillation, with roundtable discussion by regional experts;
  • CIED considerations for His bundle pacing as well as CRT response and management, patient longevity, shock reduction, and end of life considerations;
  • Pharmacologic therapy for EP and heart failure patients;
  • Epicardial VT ablation;
  • Approach to the unknown tracing, wide vs narrow complex tachycardias.

This year’s event will take place November 2nd at the Harris Conference Center in Charlotte, North Carolina from 8 am-4 pm. Continuing education credits will be provided for nursing, EP, and cath lab technicians and specialists, physician assistants, CRNAs, radiation technologists, respiratory therapists, and physicians.

The ExPlore: Innovations in Electrophysiology for the Allied Professional symposium has been a rewarding experience for all. The cooperative effort amongst the sponsoring institutions led by the committee co-chairs has brought about best practice sharing with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of care for patients with electrical heart rhythm disorders in the Southeast region. Our idea for an educational opportunity specifically created for allied professionals in the technically challenging field of electrophysiology was fueled by a passion for people, including the patients and amazing individuals who care for them. 

Disclosures: The authors have no conflicts of interest to report regarding the content herein. Outside the submitted work, Ms. Bergen reports honoraria from Medtronic.

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