Wrapping Up A Week of Learning and Laughs

March 30th, 2012

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By , BSN, RN

I’m back home from the Big Easy and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses 59th Congress. It sure seems quiet here after the last weeks of lectures, educational sessions, meet and greets, exhibit hall sales and networking until the wee hours in New Orleans hotspots. It was great. Spending time with colleagues, meeting up with old friends and acquaintances from my years as a traveler, it all added to the experience.

I have shared a couple of the big lectures I attended and talked about the importance of the exhibit hall (not just the free giveaways) and over the next weeks I will share more from some of the many educational sessions I attended. But today, I have a little wrap up. Events that were great to attend and just the fun that added to attending Congress.

Opening Ceremony – Every event of this size (between 10-12, 000 nurses in attendance plus all the vendors) has some kind of opening ceremony. AORN’s is a lot of fun. President Ann Marie Herlehy, DNP, RN, CNOR welcomed everyone andshowed repeatedly she can be good sport, even when invited to hold a live alligator (not your usual bouquet of flowers for OR RNs, no sir). There was live music and a local celebrity emcee, entertaining videos and a lot of laughs. Without a doubt, though, the most stirring moment was just after the parade of delegates from each state’s AORN chapter when the military came marching in. Nurses representing the Army, Navy, and Air Force received a lengthy standing ovation from the thousands of civilian nurses in attendance. It made me proud.

Keynote Speaker, Cory Booker, JD, MA – Booker is in his second term as the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey; a city that has been the butt of many jokes. However, Newark is no joke to Booker and with his positive attitude and willingness to jump in the fray and get dirty he has transformed what was once a blighted urban environment into a city that nurtures families, communities and businesses. Booker’s address was titled, “How to Change the World With Your Bare Hands” and it was inspirational.

Like Newark, healthcare is broken and it needs an injection of hard work and support from the people who live and work in it; in this case nursing. “The road to change is not paved,” Booker said. “It is challenging. It takes will and work.”

Booker reminded us all that when the patient is on the table it is a great equalizer and it is our job to advocate. Changing healthcare calls for advocates. He quoted Abraham Lincoln, saying, “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” Booker shared examples of how “small acts of kindness, decency and love” can make for big changes.

Bob and Lee Woodruff – Bob Woodruff is the ABC anchor/reporter who was severely injured in a roadside IED attack in Iraq in 2006. He spent 36 days in a medically induced coma, his wife Lee by his side. It has been a long road back and while still not a hundred percent, Woodruff has made a truly remarkable return to life and to television.

The couple related stories about their stays in the hospitals in both overseas and in the United States, really focusing on the nurses who stayed by their sides, offered comfort and compassion and “nursed” them both through the long recovery. They shared how the whole event tested them as a family and a couple and taught them significant life lessons.

While discussing his injuries, Lee offered 10 dollars to any OR nurse at the book signing who could get rid of one of the last rocks still embedded in his forehead from the exploding mine. They were charming, warm and so thankful to their nursing staff around the world, it was impossible to leave this lecture not being proud to be a nurse.

Swamp tour – As I said in my blog a week ago, one of the benefits of attending a specialty convention is the chance to have a little fun. I took one afternoon off with a couple of nurse friends to go explore a Louisiana swamp. In the company of a local nurse and fellow blogger, Vernon Dutton, RN (also known as @nursingpins on Twitter) we headed out for a little adventure. Dutton had arranged for an airboat tour of the Lake Salvador swamp.

The day was perfect, sunny, no humidity, in the high 70s. And many were out taking advantage including an abundance of alligators. That’s right folks, we were alligator stalking basically. Our guide went as far as to throw out bits of raw chicken to bring these guys right up to the boat. Creepy and cool at the same time. I learned something else on this adventure too. Alligators have a sweet tooth. All of them love marshmallows, even the 13-foot long, 70 year old Miss Vicky. She was big but well fed by all the tourists so she showed little interest in us for snacks.

This convention was great. I learned so much from my fellow nurses. AORN puts on a heck of a convention, with fun, facts and a few freebies all jammed into a couple of days. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Join your specialty organization. It’s a great way to keep learning without going back to school, a great way to network and learn from your fellow nurses and it can even provide a chance for a few little life adventures. Go and enjoy.

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