Issue: July 2020
Disclosures: Kear reports no relevant financial disclosures.
July 13, 2020
3 min read

ANNA National Symposium goes virtual for 2020

Issue: July 2020
Disclosures: Kear reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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The American Nephrology Nurses Association National Symposium, originally scheduled for April in Orlando, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns and will now be held as a 3-day virtual conference beginning on Aug. 29.

According to Tamara Kear, PhD, RN, CNN, FAAN, executive director of ANNA, the organization is anticipating its first virtual meeting with “great enthusiasm.”

ANNA virtual meeting

“ANNA is extremely excited to be able to have this 3-month period of time to plan our first virtual national symposium,” Kear told Nephrology News & Issues. “We’re giving opportunities to people who might not have been able to travel to a face-to-face meeting, even before the pandemic. Those individuals can now engage in our national symposium.”

She further noted the organization has strived to make the conference affordable, as well as to cover an extensive array of topics that are of interest to the wide variety of attendees. These attendees, she said, have different levels of experience as nephrology nurses, with some being new to practice and others having several decades in the specialty. Nurses also come from a variety of practice settings, including those employed at outpatient dialysis facilities, acute environments, or who serve as advanced practice nurses or technicians.

Sessions will focus on specific facets of patient care. One session is an update on the Advancing American Kidney Health and the action ANNA has taken in response, which will be presented by the organization’s health policy consultant in Washington, D.C. and the chair of its health policy committee.

“We’re approaching a year since the executive order for Advancing American Kidney Health was signed and ANNA has worked diligently to collaborate with nursing and kidney community partners to understand what this is going to mean for the care of patients with kidney disease, for our nurses and for a variety of other health care providers,” Kear said. The intention, she added, is to provide information and to address challenges such as to be successful on home dialysis and the shortage of nephrology nurses experienced in these home therapies.

Tamara Kear

According to Kear, it is important to determine the level of experience needed by the nurses that will allow them to “be on the frontlines” and troubleshoot with patients who may have challenges in the home environment.

“If we don’t troubleshoot effectively and efficiently, then we risk patients moving to in-center therapy and we won’t be able to achieve the goal of increasing home dialysis retention,” she said.

The two keynote presentations, entitled “A new era in nursing: Enabling professional empowerment” and “Finding joy in our work lives,” are especially timely during the pandemic, according to Kear, as the former explores ideas and best practices to help nurses feel more empowered in their working environment and the latter touches on how nurses can handle stress more effectively.

“We’re trying to provide a balance between professional content that addresses the population that nephrology nurses care for and also some aspects that professionally develop the nurse through attending these sessions,” Kear noted.

Sessions directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic include one offered by Elizabeth McNamara, MN, RN, who serves as vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Northwest Kidney Centers. The center had some of the first patients in the United States with kidney failure and COVID-19, with the first deaths from the virus in Washington state being patients with kidney disease, Kear said.

Another presentation will be given by Tara Millson, DNP, RN, CIC, of the CDC, and will look at infection prevention and integrating care of patients with COVID-19.

While ANNA is looking forward to having some traditional elements of the in-person symposium (such as the nephrology nurse recognition session), the organization is also excited by the innovation that has gone into creating the virtual meeting (including facilitating engagement between attendees and presenters via both text and verbal chat).

Furthermore, the virtual meeting will be compliant with the American Disability Act by offering closed captioning. Kear emphasized that this also benefits those who are English-language learners. “This is important,” she said, “because it provides the opportunity for additional people to connect.”

“We’re excited that we’re going to learn from this first virtual national symposium and we’ll take those lessons to improve future opportunities to connect with individuals from their home or working environment if they can’t travel to a meeting,” Kear said. “I think we’ve been forced into a situation that would have taken us several years to evolve toward, and now we’re going at it with enthusiasm.”