Why you should attend a professional nursing conference and what to expect

5 conference networking tips for nurses

Professional conferences, continuing education, seminars, symposiums... Let's be honest, most of us would rather watch paint dry than attend any of them. However, in the medical field, they can be especially beneficial.

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Modern medicine is advancing at break-neck speed and conferences are a fantastic way to stay on top of new practices that can aid in patient care and professional growth. In fact, attending your first conference can be an eye-opening experience that leads to attending more and more. Attending conferences in specialty areas can also lead to pay raises if you keep the conference attendance up to date, according to Stephanie Vlasis, RN, BSN.

Here are a few tips on what to expect and what you need to know:

Plan early.

Once you have found a conference that you want to attend, do your due diligence. Research hotels, flights, and other accommodations. Most importantly, know where, when, and how to check in to the conference. You will need credentials to access the workshops and conferences. Additionally, check the conference schedule for times, speakers, and topics. Make sure to pick up any registration materials you need on arrival.

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Dress accordingly.

Make sure to check with the conference guidelines you are attending regarding dress code. Most are business casual, but you will want to check to be sure.

Take advantage of networking opportunities.

You will be attending these conferences with nurses from all walks of life. Use that opportunity to discuss various practices and methods. Some conferences, such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) and the National Teaching Institute (NTI) will give you the chance to meet and discuss methodology with colleagues from around the globe. Use lunch breaks and downtime to meet other attendees, as many people as you can, to discuss your field.

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Take notes.

Just like college: notes, notes, notes. Jot down notes from every speaker you hear, write notes for new contacts, ideas, and new practices. The more, the better. Be sure to bring notebooks, pens, a laptop, whichever is your preferred method. Capture every nuance of each event that you attend.

Don't ignore exhibits.

Many conferences will have an exhibit hall which will allow you to check out the latest in everything from scrubs to new tech. Make sure to walk through and find what interests you. Again, take notes, company names, product names and uses, etc. Check the conference catalog for a list of companies involved.

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Take the time to complete evaluations.

If available, complete evaluations for presenters and conference planners. This will help with the overall experience for future symposiums. You are the ones in the field, and your input is more valuable than you may realize.

Have fun.

This may go without saying, but try to have a good time. Many conferences are booked in cities with a rich cultural heritage. Take some time to research what to do when you aren't attending the conference. Don't skip events, but make sure to book some quality downtime.

In short, do your research, book in advance, take notes, and have fun! Nursing and medical conferences are a great way to advance your career and personal growth. With a bit of forethought, you will make the most of each experience. Check this list of medical conferences in Georgia for 2019 and begin planning now.