This week the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is holding their annual conference, the National Teaching Institute – affectionately known as NTI. Oh, how I wish I could be in Denver this week, but it just wasn’t in the cards this year for me. There is nothing more inspiring than being surrounded by over 6000 nurses who are gathered to make themselves better so they can take care of their patients better. Just the gathering in that space is worth the admission.
I remember my first NTI. It was in Orlando 2004. When I left, I felt like I could do anything! I had learned so much. Validated what I did know. Been inspired. Overwhelmed. I literally felt the power of nursing. If you have been to NTI or any large conference, you know what I am talking about. The energy is contagious. I used that inspiration to power me forward. A few short years later, I had the opportunity to speak at NTI. It certainly was a career high point.
I am often told that these large conferences are not worth their time or money. I beg to differ. Here are my reasons why nurses should attend conferences.
Five Reasons Nurses Should Attend Conferences
1. Learn more than you can imagine and lots of CE’s
The caliber of education at most conferences is incredible. Well respected national speakers are the norm. I usually have a list of speakers I make a point of seeing. However, the other part I love is the average nurse has the opportunity to be the expert. I have been to incredible lectures by “staff nurses”, much like myself. They have become an expert in their own right and now have a platform to share what works. Conferences are a great opportunity to learn something new – obviously. But, it also is a time to validate what you do know and what you have been doing. And lets not forget continuing education credits! We can always use some of those.
2. Meet incredible people
I know nurses are not the best networkers, but when they get together, they realize their common ground – being awesome nurses. You are in a place of like minded people – meet as many as you can. I have made connections with other staff nurses, vendors, and speakers that I have called on over the years. Again, like minded people help like minded people. There are tons of new friends to be made – go make them! One of my favorite activities is to stay after a particularly wonderful class and talk with the speaker. If anything to just thank them for their effort, but also to continue the conversation.
3. Find a new job or career
At most conferences, there are usually recruiters. This is a gold mind for NEW GRADUATES or nurses looking to relocate. Even if you are not considering moving employers, it never hurts to talk to folks, you never know what the future holds. Personally, I found my first job at a National Student Nurses Association national convention. I talked with all of the recruiters at the convention and narrowed down where I was willing to work. It was like one stop shopping! Recently, a colleague relocated to another state for a job advancement from a connection she made at a conference. You never know…. you next job could be waiting for you!
4. Bring ideas back to your employers
As I mentioned, you can learn some really great ideas for your team back home. So often we work in a fishbowl and if you don’t have a lot of new blood, there are not a lot of new ideas. Going to conferences is a great place to step out of those comfort zones and see some new ideas to provide better patient care. One hospital I worked at held a post-conference meeting where everyone presented the best idea they saw. This meeting was attended by upper management and well received. Not only were some really great ideas brought to the table, but the nurses felt empowered. Often hospitals will invest in sending you to conferences, so give something back. However, I must caution you – even though you may be really excited about what you saw while being inspired, it is often difficult to sell that inspiration. If you really believe in your new idea, stay the course.
5. Visit a new city
I will admit, I am not good about “seeing the city” when I go to conferences. Usually I try to go to every class I can get to – from sun up to sun down. Yes, I am a nerd like that. But, I also just don’t want to miss anything. But, I do try to go a day early or stay a day after to see some sights. All work and no play does make a boring nurse!
I hope you have an opportunity to attend a national conference. You will NOT regret it! However, if you can’t make it to a national event, check out your local chapters of your nursing profession. Many of them hold local or regional conferences and many bring in some of the national speakers. Be proactive and find something great!
Have you had a great experience at a conference? I want to hear about it and start the conversation. Have fun & happy learning!!