Attending a conference is part of any healthcare professional continuous development and the benefits are immense. However, applying for funding to attend a conference can be a harder process for NHS nurses than other colleagues. Nurses have to jump through multiple loops in what it feels sometimes like a never-ending thriatlon. This process can take weeks after the conference is announced. Some manage to get 100% funding, others compromise on a 50-50. There also occasions when funding is not approved and nurses choose to take on 100% of the costs to benefit their professional development, even if it also benefits the organisation.
When nurses do get a chance to attend, conferences can develop our knowledge and skills in clinical practice, education, research. If an abstract is accepted for oral or poster presentation it can also develop our presentation skills.
Conferences can give you an insight into other departments, countries and healthcare systems. You may find yourself reflecting on a project that was presented that you can adopt in your workplace. A methodology that you have never considered may have been used in a project similar to yours. You may also realise that in other countries nurses are not given the recognition they deserve. Nursing may not have advanced as quickly as it has in your country. It is this networking that allows us to empower each other and raise our voices. It is the meaningful conversations and professional networks you establish, that helps push the boundaries just a little bit more.
When we attend a conference, we have time to reflect, something we may struggle to do it in our busy lives. Maybe you couldn’t narrow down your MSc or PhD question and you heard something that was the last piece of the puzzle. Maybe you may have met someone who inspired you to decided to apply for an MSc or PhD. This time to think may have helped you decide the next step you want to take in your career.
Then, there are the findings of breaking research trials that you hear first hand that you can share with colleagues and use it to change practice, long before the results are published.
The journey may be long but whether you attend by yourself or with colleagues, conferences contribute to your personal and professional growth. So plan which sessions to attend, explore the Exhibition hall, meet people and take the time to reflect. It will all be worth it.