Seven Reasons You Should Go To a Nursing Convention

March 23rd, 2012

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By , BSN, RN

Today’s the day. Laundry, packing the suitcase, gas up the car, and charge the iPod because tomorrow I leave for New Orleans. It’s time for the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses annual congress (which is another word for convention) and I’m almost ready to go.

I know nurses who attend their professional organization conventions every year but that has never been my route. I haven’t been in a couple of years so it makes this year’s attendance all the more exciting. I have printed out the session schedule, highlighted what I want to attend, figured out what extra activities I want to take advantage of in The Big Easy and even planned for a few fabulous NOLA meals.

If you have never attended a nursing meeting, conference, or convention you should. There are many great reasons for gathering with your colleagues from across the country and sometimes from around the world.

  1. Education – Being a nurse means a lifetime of learning. It is our responsibility to stay on top of a quickly changing healthcare environment. Advances in education, medication, technology, and research coupled with our clients’ access to information about their illnesses means we must always be learning. There is no greater opportunity for exposure to new ideas than attending a nursing conference. Professionals from across your chosen area of interest gathered together to talk about what’s new and what’s working. The Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, released on October 5, 2010, said, in regard to nursing education and training that to transform the profession we must, specifically ensure that nurses engage in lifelong learning.
  2. Continuing Education Units – About half the states in the country require CEUs for maintaining your nursing license. Most education sessions at nursing conferences are worth at least one or two CEUs. Attend four or five sessions daily for a couple of days and you are done for the next couple of years. And, you know if they are earned at the convention, they are acceptable credits. Plus, you can focus your learning on topics of interest and relevance to your daily practice.
  3. Networking – There’s nothing better than meeting your colleagues and sharing experiences. As nurses we often pigeonhole ourselves. We get our nursing education then get a job in the same city or town and many of us stay at our same hospitals for years or forever. That’s not a bad thing but it does make it easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is only one-way to do a job. As a traveling nurse I can’t tell you how many different ways in different places I had a nurse say to me, “you can’t do that that way.” That is closed-door thinking. There is more than one way to skin a cat and that applies to almost everything we do in nursing. Talking to other RNs from other hospitals, cities and states can open your mind to ideas that will improve your practice. And, you can help your colleagues improve theirs. Networking is two-way street.
  4. Discovery – Attending education sessions, visiting with colleagues and interacting with the exhibitors can be eye opening. I go to AORN as an operating room nurse who works mostly with plastic surgery and head and neck cases. But I have the opportunity to attend education sessions about heart surgery and orthopaedic devices and infection control. I spend time talking to representatives of nursing schools offering advanced degrees and speak with other nurses who write. A conference is a great chance to expand your horizons, open your eyes and maybe discover your next challenge.
  5. Advancement – If your long term goals include a future in leadership, whether on the local level or the national scene, there is no better place to learn and to move than at a convention. Big nursing organizations like the American Nurses Association, the National League of Nurses, and all the specialty organizations like AORN have lots of committees. This is your chance to get involved, meet the current movers and shakers, and take your place. Volunteer to work on committee this year and down the road you could be running the place.
  6. Build Your Reputation At Home – One of the great things about attending an annual meeting is bringing what you learn back to your colleagues at home. You can collect materials, take pictures and notes and bring back learning opportunities for your friends on the unit. It shows your management you are serious about your job, it can improve your employer’s patient care agendas and shows that you are committed to advancing not only your education and career but those of the people you work with every day.
  7. Have A Little Fun – Attending a meeting or convention is a chance to break out of the routine. Often, hospitals or other employers will help fund a trip to a convention; that’s like a free learning vacation. At these events many vendors host breakfasts, lunches and dinners to show off their products. You get the chance to get out on the town at very little expense. And, you get to explore some to the great “so called” destination cities in the United States. The most popular places for these meetings are San Diego, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Attending a convention can really be an adventure.

So there you go. Seven great reasons to sign up for the next nursing meeting, conference, or convention. Take advantage of all they have to offer you.

As for me, I will be writing, Tweeting and sharing on Facebook for the next week all the things I do and learn in New Orleans. I have the opportunity to hear an expert address the issue of “nurse-on-nurse “ bullying, the former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be telling us about the future of healthcare and does that equal quality care and there is a big international focus this year at AORN and that opens up a world of possibilities. I’ll keep you posted.

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