I love going to professional conferences.  Not only are they a way to get CE’s and learn a ton, it is a great way to network with other students and CRNAs.  (I also like to dress up since 75% of the time I’m in hospital provided scrubs). This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Seattle Annual Congress.  I went to the mid-assembly in the Spring, and since then I was hooked.  Every conference I get to attend, I’m there!   I went to a lot of the educational sessions, such as airway management, reimbursement lectures, spinal and regional anesthesia and also the Diversity CRNA lecture.  I was able to explore Seattle as well.  I shopped around at the Pike Place Market, saw the original Starbucks, went to the Space Needle, Museum of Modern Pop Art and took a cool water taxi to Alki Island for dinner by the water at Salty’s.

It was a wonderful experience and I encourage EVERYONE to save the money (some schools pay for their students) to attend at least an Annual Congress or Mid-Assembly.  The mid-assembly has more advocacy involvement and I was able to directly talk to the congressman representing my area to discuss the critical roles that CRNAs play, and how I needed his support for bills like Title Protection, something that will get CRNAs recognized in the State of NY.  As of right now, CRNAs work under their RN license, there is no separate “Title.”

So, for your first professional conference, it’s important to network and attend social events. You have NO idea who you’re going to meet and how they may be able to impact you.  At the Annual Congress, I attended the Diversity CRNA Black & White Affair. I met with amazing SRNAs from across the country, long with several CRNAs who are willing to mentor and aid me in the development of my capstone project.

I knew I was going to be networking and had just established my website and IG page. So I re-created my business cards to share.  I wanted people to know me and know what I stood for.  As a student, even if you don’t have dedicated IG, get a LinkedIn account, put your name, email or # on it and any social media you’ll like to share.  I remember the days of number swapping, etc., but sometimes it’s much easier to hand over a business card. Plus you look way more professional!

Do:

  1. Network and Attend Social Events
  2. Take Notes
    1. Now that we’re in this technological craze, the AANA developed an app for each event where any associated PPTs are embedded in the apps and you can take notes in-app which is cool! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take notes!  There are a lot of learning opportunities and each of the workshops I went to, I took notes to review the information when I went home.
  3. Participate
    1. Not only are you setting yourself up to win some free stuff for answering questions, it just helps the atmosphere when people are engaged and participating!
  4. Visit the exhibits
    1. This is one of the best parts for me! Not only are most exhibitors giving away free things, but you learn about the new technology that’s out, and it’s a great way to network to find a job! Although I’m a year and a half out, making connections now will help you later on!
  5. Follow Up
    1. Once you’ve made connections, swapped business cards, etc. Send an e-mail to those connections. Reiterate what you’re looking for in terms of jobs, or ask them questions about their products.  If they’re mentors, re-introduce yourself and keep the communication lines OPEN!
  6. Remember who you represent!
    1. Conferences are still professional. However, when the drinks are flowing and the dance floor is open, remember who you represent, your name tag is still on (usually) and it’s important to always conduct yourself appropriately.

Don’ts:

  1. To follow up to #6, don’t party too hard!  You have to wake up the next morning (probably very early) to go to a workshop and sit next to your professor.  Be smart!
  2. Sticking with the same group of people
    1. This is nice to have your “crew” but don’t be afraid to branch out and meet new people!
  3. Being Late
    1. Try to be on time for the workshops! Sometimes there is an overlap, so try to sneak in the back and not walk in front of the presenter for a seat!
  4. Falling Asleep
    1. This is the worst. Get enough rest so you’re not falling alseep.  Especially during those early morning workshops and lectures.
  5. Not having business cards
    1. You can easily create your own by buying Avery Business card paper and utilizing their FREE online app to design them!

All in all, I can’t wait for next year’s conference!  I hope to meet some of you!

Please comment and share your experiences with any professional conferences you’ve attended!