From The Floor
Why You Should Attend a Nursing Conference
Networking with peers while expanding our
Why should my readers attend a nursing conference?
1. They’re fun!
2. You get to meet interesting people.
3. You don’t have to answer the call button.
4. You can make your own schedule.
5. You get to take home some really nice swag!
If the above five reasons have piqued your interest in attending one of many nursing conferences taking place here and around the globe, then I invite you to read on.
Nursing conferences allow nurses of all levels of experience to participate in an area of career and education growth that is not easily found within the structure of the workplace.
Some nurses, especially those working at the bedside, may not see the significance of attending a conference. All too often the floor/bedside nurse believes that conferences are only for management, while others may think that spending one or more days not earning a paycheck may not outweigh the opportunity to clock in some additional overtime. There may be a whole host of other reasons why a nurse would prefer to remain home rather than attending a conference. Despite the plentiful excuses (the top two being cost and time), the benefits far outweigh the costs.
A nursing conference is an opportunity to meet others within the speciality, to network and to learn the latest clinical information. It is an opportunity no nurse should overlook. I’ve always embraced the opportunity to attend nursing conferences and have made a point to encourage others to attend whenever the opportunity arises.
‘Lots to Choose From
The range of conferences is extensive and includes nearly every permutation of nursing group, association and specialty.
Many of these conferences are usually focused on a grouping, such as the American Nurses Association, the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and the National Black Nurses Association, to name a few. Other conferences may be specialty focused, such as the Association of Operating Room Nurses, the National Association of Neonatal Nurses and the Oncology Nursing Society.
Still other conferences address the educational, managerial or executive levels of nursin. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Organization of Nurse Executives and the National League of Nursing are a few.
Most, if not all, of the above mentioned groups can be counted on to plan, organize and host a big annual conference event.
These conferences are scheduled one or more years in advance, which gives the prospective attendee (or delegate, as they are often called) time to plan the necessary time off and to save, raise or secure funding for the conference. This is important, since the conferences are usually held in venues elsewhere, requiring travel time, and run several days, necessitating hotel costs.
Conferences usually take place in what are often referred to as “destination cities,” such as Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Nashville or Orlando; these locales give the nurse the opportunity to combine the trip with a vacation.
Conferences Give Nurses the Opportunity to:
• Explore new information about their area of specialty through presentations made by speakers, or through the study of abstracts presented at the conference.
• Be on the cutting edge of new and often yet-unreleased information concerning their area of practice.
• Meet and discuss ideas with the authors and presenters directly, generating a real-time forum in which conversation and debate can flourish.
• Discover a different area of practice that piques their interest and may lead to a career change.
• Accumulate continuing education units.
• See a larger world view of the profession. Sometimes we see themselves solely in the context of the hospital and community in which we practice, and don’t realize their larger impact.
• Enhance the nurse’s self-image within the hospital
• Present an abstract. Many conferences open up to presenters well in advance of the date with an announcement for abstracts. A qualified nurse or team can then submit their research to the committee for consideration. There’s nothing quite like presenting one’s theorem to a roomful of peers and having the opportunity to defend it as delegates wander through the poster/abstract rooms.
While some nurses are able to be presenters, most attend the conference as a participant. As such, participants should make sure to take full advantage of what the conference has to offer. One way is to download the finalized conference agenda as soon as it is available online. Most conference brochure/schedules are available in a PDF format for easy downloading and printing.
Also, many smart phones support PDF files, so nurses even have the option of downloading the brochure onto smart phones for fingertip access.
A Note on Networking
Far too often when an individual attends a conference with co-workers or friends, too much time is spent socializing with the same people the nurse sees every day, and not enough time is spent networking with other delegates. Event organizers anticipate this and plan mixers or socials in order to encourage delegates to mix and mingle. Ultimately, it’s up to the delegates to make the best use of conference time to form new connections.
A nurse can garner much from networking with their peers who share a similar passion, and may even develop new friendships and business connections that can last a lifetime. Every nurse should be sure to bring business cards to exchange with people they meet.
Mind Who Sits Behind You!
You’ll never know what will happen at a nursing conference, such as the time I attended a local National League of Nursing (NLN) event. Over the three days, I had the chance to make some new acquaintances and we constantly crossed paths as the days progressed. That closing dinner, we decided to all sit together to watch the awards ceremony.
As we waited, they announced for the final award to honor Sister Callista Roy. I turned to my new friends and whispered, “I thought she was dead.” Sister Roy is a very influential nurse scholar from Los Angeles who developed the Adaptation Model of Nursing in 1976.
“Me, too” came loud whispered responses from those sitting to my left and right.
Imagine our surprise as an elderly woman just behind us rose from her seat and walked to the podium to receive her award. Such moments abound at conferences, which ensures that there’s never a dull moment.
What unique experience will you have at your next nursing conference? You won’t know if you don’t attend. So the next time you receive that conference flyer in the mail or you get that offer from your supervisor, register!
Note: The Mayo Clinic has an excellent list of nursing conferences organized by specialty.
Geneviève M. Clavreul RN, Ph.D., is a healthcaremanagement consultant who has experience as a director of nursing and as a lecturer of hospital and nursing management. She can be reached at: Solutions Outside the Box; PO Box 867, Pasadena, CA, 91102-2867