Mark A. Perazella
Each year, the National Kidney Foundation’s Spring Clinical Meetings engages speakers from across the country to share the most current developments in nephrology. Topics are selected with the purpose of presenting health care providers, such as nephrologists, general internists, pharmacists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers or dieticians, with the latest insights into caring for patients with kidney disease to better their practice.
“As program chair for the Spring Clinical Meeting 2020, along with my co-chair Mitch Rosner, the NKF SCM education leadership and the program committee faculty, we hope to bring forth another outstanding clinical meeting that covers a wide array of topics,” Mark A. Perazella, MD, FACP, professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, commented to Healio Nephrology. He said some of these topics — which cover the spectrum of nephrology, from “bread and butter topics” to “cutting-edge clinical material” — include diagnostic testing, clinical practice guidelines on how to prevent/slow CKD progression, palliative care and social media use in nephrology care. In addition, there will be a Young Investigators Forum, which highlights the research work of young nephrology scientists and is followed by a reception where faculty and fellows discuss career choices.
Healio Nephrology also obtained an exclusive preview that focuses specifically on the social work program, for which Kevin Ceckowski, MSW, LICSW, FNKF, service chief, outpatient medical social work service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and social work program committee chair, along with committee co-chair Elizabeth Jones, MSW, LCSW, FNKF, a divisional lead social worker for DaVita in the Washington, D.C. metro area and a facility social worker in Ashburn, Virginia, were interviewed.
Ceckowski said, for the social work program, the selection of interesting and timely topics begins with forming a strong committee. The committee consists of five to six social workers, each of whom specializes in dialysis, ethics, pediatrics or transplant. Jones said ensuring the committee includes a member from each of these specialties allows for a wide array of perspectives when building the sessions.
“We try to include tools and techniques that social workers can take back to their practice, whether it be in-center dialysis, home dialysis, transplant or pediatrics,” she added.
After the committee is formed, topics are selected based on audience feedback from previous meetings. Broadly, the topics that received most attention from attendees were related to ethics, burnout, home dialysis, transplant and pediatric nephrology. In addition, attendees wanted to see more sessions on patient adherence, patient education and patient safety.
As the goal, Ceckowski said, is not to present well-trodden topics but instead to deliver ideas that are “new and fresh,” only a few of the sessions at this year’s meeting are repeats. One of these, which was highly rated last year, is entitled “Laughter therapy and dialysis: Exercise, activity and wellness.” For this interactive session, a “laughter yoga” coach was introduced to the audience after the session speaker finished his talk on the benefits of laughter therapy. He showed an interactive video of patients in a dialysis clinic participating in the therapy. According to Ceckowski, “the happiness and the cheerfulness throughout the dialysis unit was truly incredible.”
Another notable session, “On the shoulders of giants: Lessons learned from history,” will explore the history of social work in nephrology. In Jones’s words, the presenters “are going to go over where our roots come from, where we are now and where the profession can go as we work with our interdisciplinary teams and patients.” Ceckowski added the session will also delve into the assessment tool used in the dialysis unit known as quality assessment and performance improvement, or QAPI. As there are many CMS requirements such as this one, he said a discussion on ways to prevent and manage burnout — as well as on professional challenges and opportunities — will ensue.
Regarding Advancing American Kidney Health (AAKH), Ceckowski said it is important to keep in mind that, even though home dialysis can provide patients with more freedom and improved quality of life, it important that patients and their care partners are properly trained and followed by the interdisciplinary team. In addition, he suggested merely getting people “off the list” and transplanted is not enough. It must be done with a plan for medication coverage and for better quality of life with the entire transplant team being involved.
Despite these challenges, Jones said, “we think it’s wonderful that the administration recognizes how important it is to set goals and to increase patient knowledge about access to home dialysis, as well as transplantation.” While Jones said several sessions regarding these topics have been built into this year’s meeting, Ceckowski furthered that for the next meeting, “we’ll see where the executive order goes and where attendees, as well as the NKF, want us to expand in order to learn more about this exciting area. There’s a lot happening in the kidney world.”
Perazella also weighed in on AAKH, commenting that, “the executive order recognizes the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease, the need to provide individuals with more choices when kidney failure occurs, and the need to increase the supply of organs for kidney transplantation.” He added, “These goals signal to the broader kidney community that the federal government is serious about changing the dynamics inherent currently in kidney care.”
Noting that the NKF worked closely with the administration to develop the initiative’s priorities and strategies, Perazella said the Spring Clinical Meetings (SCM) program is filled with sessions and lectures that explore these goals. Furthermore, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, II, has been awarded the NKF Public Service Award.
Healio Nephrology will be providing live coverage of the 2020 conference, which will be held at the Earnest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans (however, both Ceckowski and Jones emphasized social workers can later complete some sessions online and earn CEUs, even if they cannot physically attend the meeting).
“For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of my role as a nephrologist and educator is interacting with trainees, students, residents, nephrology fellows, colleagues and other health care professionals in the field of nephrology,” Perazella said. “The NKF SCM is the ideal place to interact with all of these people, teaching and learning from each other.” – by Melissa J. Webb
Disclosures: Ceckowski, Jones and Perazella report no relevant financial disclosures. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of Army/Navy/Airforce, Department of Defense or the U.S. government.