May 12, 2015
2 min read

VASA practicum offers basics in access care

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The Vascular Access Society of Americas is planning its fifth biennial practicum at Duke University in Durham North Carolina from May 15-16. Since the first vascular access practicum in 2007, this program has emerged as premier, one-of-a kind activity that offers “hands on” experience for nephrology physicians, surgeons, and dialysis access interventionalists. Due to its success, the program expanded its activities in 2011 to provide training for dialysis nurses and technicians.

The course organized that year at the Washington University School of Medicine was limited to 100 physicians and 50 dialysis nurse coordinators, access nurses and technicians. The course in 2013 at Methodist Hospital, Houston provided training for 125 physicians and 75 dialysis access staff, and the course this month at Duke intends to accommodate 150 dialysis staff dialysis and 200 physicians. Due to its unique needs, the course is conducted at select institutions that have facilities capable of accommodating all its needs.

The course intends to provide hands on experience in all dialysis access related activities to attendees. Physicians spend time in the vivarium that provides opportunity to perform access surgery and related interventions in real time and work on cadaver limbs. They also get an opportunity to observe live surgical and interventional procedures related to vascular access, work real time with access patient evaluation and management, and learn the utilization of ultrasound techniques to map vessels. Multitudes of simulators provide ample opportunity for every participant to get a ‘hands on’ experience.

The Conference

Fifth Biennial Vascular Access Practicum
Vascular Access Society of Americas
May 15-16
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, N.C.
For more information and registration, visit

When the program was extended to the dialysis staff, unique practical aspects were included to suit their practical needs. These activities included hands on experience with fresh tissue, simulators in cannulation, dialysis trouble shooting techniques, in center and in home hemodialysis machines with simulated circuits, ultrasound evaluation of patients for mapping and vein preservation, evaluation of functional and ailing accesses with physical exam and ultrasound, and other areas. This year the course will also address more current issues in dialysis nursing, including Fistula First, Catheter Last, One Minute Check training with live patient models, ultrasound for access cannulation, access device hands-on sessions, hemodialysis catheter avoidance techniques, and the nuances of access care.

Large numbers of specialists (physicians, surgeons, interventional radiologists and nephrologists, dialysis coordinators and access nurses) in the field of vacular access participate as faculty. As the number of attendees is limited, it provides ample opportunity for every attendee to interact with these experts in an informal setting. Besides the hands-on activity, this 1 ½ day program also provides didactic activity, including videos of procedures for physicians and role-play experiences for dialysis staff.

Vascular access is a multidisciplinary specialty. It starts with nephrologist recognition of patients at risk for end-stage renal disease, their appropriate management, counseling, and vein preservation. Timely referral to access surgeons who understand ESRD and develop plans to fulfill vascular access needs for the entire life of the ESRD patient is important.

Success of access procedures depends on a number of factors. It requires the understanding of different treatment modalities (transplant, peritoneal dialysis, and hemodialysis) and their meaningful use in a given patient to obtain meaningful survival benefit. Longevity of the access function depends on cannulation techniques, surveillance, monitoring, and appropriate and timely interventions.

VASA provide a multidisciplinary forum for all specialties involved in the field of vascular access, and the Vascular Access Practicum promotes the cause of improving dialysis access placement and management through education. -by Surendra Shenoy, MD, PhD; Deborah J. Brouwer-Maier, RN, CNN