How To Navigate Nursing Conferences

by | Mar 5, 2019 | Podcasts, Professional Development for Nurses | 0 comments

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Who You’ll Hear

Kati Kleber, MSN RN– Nurse educator, former cardiac med-surg/stepdown and neurocritical care nurse, author, and speaker.

Melissa Stafford, BSN RN CCRN SCRN – highly experienced and currently practicing nationally certified neurocritical care nurse.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Introduction to NTI
  • How to get the most out of them
  • Setup overview
  • Practical tips
  • New Nurses should attend

Nursing conferences are fun but can be pretty overwhelming. In this episode, Melissa and Kati discuss some practical tips to get the most out the experience and investment.

Introduction to NTI in Houston, Texas

  • NTI is a National Teaching Institute
  • An annual conference that the American Association of Critical Care Nurses puts on
  • Anywhere from 6,000-8,000 nurses attend
  • Kati attended conferences in Houston, Denver, and San Diego
  • Melissa attended conferences in Denver, New Orleans, and now Houston

How to Get the Most Out of Conferences

Conferences are expensive, but they are definitely worth it. Here are some tips for getting the most out of conferences.

  • Figure Out Your Purpose – Why are you going here?
    • Kati attended her first NTI to learn more about Neuro Critical Care. She was newer to it and attended neuro-specific classes.
    • When she attended a 2nd time, she was already familiar with neuro, so she went to learn about ARDS and respiratory things.
    • This time in 2017, Kati is looking more big picture. What kind of sessions can I go to for engagement with nurses and helping new grads?
    • Melissa has been doing neuro ICU for a long time but she appreciates staying up to date on up and coming research.
    • When she attends NTI, she focuses more on critical care in general.
    • It’s a way to expand your knowledge. You never know when something is going to benefit you.
    • You hear things at different stages of readiness. You might have heard something 5 times, but when you hear it at the conference the 6th time, you are ready to comprehend it and put it into action.
    • There are opportunities for networking opportunities. If you want to get involved in professional organizations like AACN, you can connect with those people at dinners they offer.

Conference Setup Overview

If you have never attended a conference, here is a general overview of what a conference is and what you can expect.

  • Usually held in a large city with a large conference center
  • There are “Super Sessions
    • Everybody goes into one room
    • It’s a room large enough to hold 6,000 nurses
    • There are major keynote speakers
    • Emcee and performance type things – usually held once a day
  • There are also “Breakout Sessions
    • They offer different specific sessions that cover a variety of topics
    • NTI has a massive schedule
    • Each session lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours
    • The 2.5 hour long sessions are called “Mastery Sessions.”
    • You pick what you want to go to
    • After you attend, you will get your CE credits after you complete the evaluation (can be done on mobile).
  • They have an “Exhibit Hall
    • A bunch of vendors and companies that want to market to nurses
    • Organizations also have booths – like the Daisy Foundation, nursing schools, medical equipment companies like Cheetah, Stryker, etc.
    • You find out more information, enter giveaways, and get free stuff
  • Everything is scheduled
    • There are specific times for the exhibit hall, specific times for the sessions, breakout session, and super sessions
  • It is up to you to make it what you want
    • You are not required to follow the schedule exactly. You can do as much or as little as you want.
    • If you invest a lot of money on travel and ticket cost, but only go to 2 sessions and get 2 CE credits, that is your prerogative. But you can get so much more out of it if you want.
    • You can get as much as 37 CE credits at once here at NTI.
      • For reference, many states require only approximately 20 every few years for relicensing

Practical Conference Tips

These are tips you will actually use to get the most out of the conference and be prepared for what really happens.

  • Wear practical and comfortable shoes
    • The conference center is 4 city blocks long, you will be walking a lot
  • Conference clothes – what to wear
    • Don’t wear scrubs
    • You can wear jeans, but nice jeans.
    • It’s like a casual/business casual environment
    • Presenters will wear dress suits or more business professional attire
    • Most attendees wear jeans with nice dress shirts or khakis/slacks with nicer shirts/blouses.
    • Dress in such a way that if you saw your boss or the CEO of your hospital, you’d be proud to stand in front of them professionally.
    • There isn’t a dress code, but there is a way to dress that represents yourself professionally.
  • Dress in Layers
    • Conference centers are large, so the temperature is difficult to regulate.
    • They tend to be very cold places, but the outside temps are hot.
  • If you want to eat lunch at lunchtime, you probably can’t
    • You might be in line for an hour if you show up right at lunchtime
    • The Starbucks lines are insanely long
    • Maybe sneak out of a session a little early
    • Plan an off time to get some food
  • Bathroom lines are typical
    • The men’s line is never a problem
    • Women’s bathroom is always super long
    • At one conference, they changed a men’s restroom into women’s restroom, taping over the sign
    • Try to pee in off times to avoid the long lines
  • What to keep in your bag
    • Protein Bar (or some other snacks)
    • Water bottle
    • Conference schedule
    • Phone charger
  • Plan your sessions ahead of time
    • If you know what your purpose is, look for sessions that achieve that purpose
    • You won’t get as much out of it if you show and just try to wing it
    • Read the descriptions of the sessions
      • There might be 5 sessions on sepsis, but what do you want to get out of the sepsis lecture?
  • Choose your partner carefully
    • If you choose someone that is really going to site-see all day and you want to go to classes, you will have a conflict
    • Go with someone that wants to learn if you want to learn
    • Make sure you are compatible with the person you are sharing a room with. (Night owls vs morning people)
  • If you get to a session and it isn’t what you thought it was going to be, leave immediately and attend a backup session.
    • Your time is valuable
    • Don’t waste your time sitting in a session that isn’t valuable to you.
    • Some sessions might be too advanced for you, change sessions.
    • Take advantage of what is most beneficial to you.

New Nurses: Attend a Conference

New nurses should definitely try to go to a conference, this is why:

  • There is so much out there and available beyond what your hospital offers
  • Early on in your career, they don’t reimburse for conferences, but the benefit outweighs the cost.
  • If you have a hospital that will reimburse you, take advantage of it.
  • Conferences start a dialogue, get people thinking, and shows your level of engagement.

More Resources on Nursing Conferences:

AACN EventsAACN EventsAACN EventsFirst National Conference on Industrial Diseases: Chicago, June 10, 1910 - Scholar's Choice EditionFirst National Conference on Industrial Diseases: Chicago, June 10, 1910 – Scholar’s Choice EditionFirst National Conference on Industrial Diseases: Chicago, June 10, 1910 - Scholar's Choice Edition

Brittney Wilson and I do an in-person 5-hour seminar during the NNBA Conference. Stay on the lookout for more information about this year’s conference.

I’m elated to work with the NNBA (National Nurses in Business Association) because they offer a huge network of support… support I could have used when I was going through this whole mess. It would have been helpful to already be in a network of people to bounce ideas or situations off of that just didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t really specify why.

The NNBA consists of over several thousand nurses, leaders, and mentors. Growing a successful business, balancing life, and making sure to consider our profession as a whole can be challenging. If you’re a nurse business owner or considering starting a membership, an NNBA membership is truly an investment in your success.

In addition to being a member of the American Nurses Association and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, I’m also a member of the National Nurses in Business Association, and I highly recommend becoming a member. Join me.

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Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


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