July 8, 2020

Attending Conferences: My Experience Thus Far in Nursing

This past week (June 3, 2019), I attending the Emerging Trends in Nursing Conference at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in Marion, Indiana. The conference is sponsored by IWU’s GROW Nurses initiative, which seeks to address health disparities in Grant County, Indiana, by fostering entry into the field of nursing. As I mentioned in a previous post, this Emerging Trends conference was not the first I had attended. It was also not the first nursing conference I had attended.

Front cover of the Emerging Trends in Nursing 2019 conference program.
Front cover of the Emerging Trends in Nursing 2019 program.

I have enjoyed the Emerging Trends conferences for several reasons. For most of my life, I have been intrinsically motivated to learn and develop. Small conferences like the Emerging Trends conference have been good opportunities to focus on a limited range of topics. That focus has also meant more significant interactions with other attendees. In particular, as a graduate of IWU’s Transition to Nursing program, I’ve tried to maintain an ongoing relationship with IWU’s nursing department through attendance at these conferences. The Emerging Trends conference is also an inexpensive way to earn continuing education units (CEUs). Among all of these factors, I’ve found there’s an important synergy that maximizes the potential for my professional growth.

I know that not every nurse is interested in conferences–or even in CEUs for that matter. Indeed, the only reason to earn CEUs is to fulfill a requirement for license or certification renewal or as a condition of employment. In reality, I don’t need the CEUs for either purpose, but they are one way I track my own professional development. I’ll gladly receive the CEUs, but I would almost certainly attend some conferences that do not offer them. The Emerging Trends conference is one of those.

You may have taken the time to explore my Twitter coverage of the conference. My first Tweet of the conference can be found here. If you’re interested in my Twitter feed generally, please check it out through the link in the right sidebar. While I’ve attended many different conferences in different fields in my lifetime, I’ve never before attempted to cover any conference thoroughly. In a real sense, even that step was an opportunity for career development.

The conference included four oral presentations as well as a poster session that included 12 posters. I covered the oral presentations on Twitter, and my previous post on this blog covered the poster session briefly. Aside from the main sequence of events, add-ons included breakfast, lunch, a door prize drawing, and a table at which attendees could learn more about IWU’s variety of nursing degree programs. As I stated in reference to the poster session, in order to be sensitive to the privacy interests of the authors and presenters, I won’t list here the titles and bylines of the oral presentations. For more information concerning the titles and speakers, please peruse my Twitter coverage.

Instead, I’d rather focus on how the conference fits into my career development overall. I mention previously that there are multiple reasons I attend conferences, and I have noticed that nursing conferences are rather different from conferences I have attended in other fields. At the Emerging Trends conference, I was able to reconnect with four different faculty from my time in the accelerated nursing program at IWU, and I believe the interactions were as genuinely welcoming as if I had still attended IWU as a student. Even better than that, the interactions were in some way collegial, as there is something different about post-graduation interactions with former professors.

I’ve been attending various types of professional conferences since 1994. These include research conferences in the natural sciences and nursing as well as education conferences in nursing and classical education. These conferences have spanned the distance from small institutional “research days” to single-day, regional gatherings to week-long national or international conferences. I’ve enjoyed each type of conference for its own reasons, but small nursing conferences like the Emerging Trends conference have been among the most enjoyable.

Because I entered the field of nursing after years in life science research, I had had limited exposure to presentations by nurses. In fact, prior to nursing school, the only nursing-oriented presentation I had ever attended was a single 15-minute talk given years ago by two nurses at a state academy of science meeting. Now having attended several nursing conferences and having spent some years in health care, I can honestly say that it’s easier for me to utilize the content of a nursing conference professionally than any other type of conference, probably because nursing is inherently holistic. So, the content of a nursing conference is so much more applicable to my career than many–possibly most–of the arcane topics I’ve learned about over the years at conferences.

Overall, I found the Emerging Trends in Nursing Conference a well-timed addition to my journey through nursing. Because any professional experience is to some extent simply a matter of what you choose to make of it, a conference like Emerging Trends that focuses on a field that is inherently broad and related to all of life has great potential to fuel growth and development. For me, the Emerging Trends conference will be an event to look forward to each time for many reasons.

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