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Clocking up CPD – the conference

It’s too expensive… It’s too far away…

These would have to be the two most compelling reasons an individual can make not to take the time to go to a conference. It’s too expensive…. We’re already short-staffed… equally compelling arguments from employers. Yet, as I was sitting on a shuttle bus at the end of a great conference recently, making my way from the Gold Coast to Brisbane airport to fly home, dreary rain rhythmically hitting the windshield, I had to admit to feeling a way I hadn’t felt for quite some time: I felt invigorated. I felt inspired. I felt compelled to make a difference again – and that I could. As someone currently sitting in a management position, I’m not sure you can put a price on a motivated employee.

For going on three years now, a curtain has been descended on formal education. For those brave enough to attempt to run events, a constant cloud of fear followed you around: will it or won’t it go ahead? And if it does go ahead, such a burden of responsibility: will we be responsible for a super-spreader event that worsens the staffing crisis? But the time has come to raise the curtain again, and get back out there.

To feel some sense of passion again was a welcome relief for me. It’s still there, and I do still love what I do. I can stop plotting my path to becoming a dolphin trainer (even though the folks at SeaWorld, where I had just spent two days, made this look like an amazing new career path for me). This feeling is a testament to the benefits and power that high quality professional development opportunities can have. As we move forward into the post COVID world of nursing and the challenges we face, this is proof that investment in our people is an essential element to re-building a tired, frazzled and disenchanted workforce.

So what exactly are the benefits of conference attendance?

  • The most obvious benefit is that you learn something NEW, or maybe many things, and that it changes the way you think and practice.
  •  It can also be good for re-setting your perspective. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of negativity and cynicism, but a good conference can help you see that it’s not all doom and gloom and that it is still possible to do good things, both simple and the more grand. It can also help you to realise that a problem is not unique to you and therefore the solution is not just reliant on you, and that can help you to feel less isolated in the challenges you face.
  • Attendance is an easy way to clock up a significant chunk of your annual CPD requirement, a day conference will usually yield between 6.5-7.5 CPD points, and if you attend multi-day events then that can almost take care of that pesky yearly requirement.
  • A conference is really the best place to be professionally inspired. So many amazing people all in one location. I often get chills reading the bios of key-note speakers. I get imposter syndrome too (but we might talk about that at a later date!). Sessions based on contemporary research can help to highlight the gaps in best practice in your organisation or department and ignite ideas for quality improvement projects and change.
  • The opportunity to talk to like-minded people is another drawcard. Networking with colleagues and others within your professional circle is never easier than at a conference.  You can also talk to expert company reps, who not only provide essential sponsorship to conferences, but also expose us to new and updated products and equipment. You might also meet some of your local nursing or specialty college reps and be inspired to join and get involved.
  • You can participate in the dissemination of information. Many conferences have opportunities for novice presenters, with oral and poster presentations. In fact, one of my professional highlights in 2022 was watching a colleague present on a QI project that she had been working on for a number of years. Conference presentation is a great thing to build your CV and your professional portfolio and profile. You might also take what you have learned at a conference and present an inservice or design a poster for your own department.
  • And last but not least, the social events and travel opportunity. Contrary to what my husband believes, a conference is not all about the social events, but it is the reward you get for the mental exhaustion (it’s real) of intense learning and focus. I’ve had some fabulous experiences as a result of conference social events – rollercoaster riding at Movie World; a silent disco (this might sound dull, but was one of the funniest conference social nights I’ve had); an aquarium tour and dolphin show at Sea World. You might even consider incorporating a holiday before or after the conference to really unwind and make the most of time away.

Over the years, as part of my role as a nurse educator and through my involvement in the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the development and running of a number of conferences and seminars. Huge amounts of time and effort go into providing these experiences. And while there has to be a cost involved, there are ways to ease that cost. Consider accessing scholarships, there are many out there, available through both your employers and professional organisations. It might surprise you to know, that some of these are not as highly competitive as you might think, and that for a little bit of effort in writing an application, you can be well rewarded to support that dream conference.