Vanguard Faculty Development Funding generously supported my attendance at two professional conferences this academic year. One meeting was the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Fall Annual Meeting (October 26 – 31, 2017) that was held in Washington, DC. This conference brings chief nursing academic officers together with noted thought leaders to discuss key funding resources, organizational and legislative challenges, and opportunities impacting nursing education. AACN is the national organization for nursing education (baccalaureate and graduate) and attending such conferences significantly impacts my professional growth as an academic nurse leader. Conference attendance also facilitates networking with other deans and directors from a variety of small and large schools of nursing across the United States. I am the chair of the MSN conference planning committee (2017-18) and as such, am a member of both the Fall and Spring Annual conference planning committee. As a member of the conference committee, I was responsible for facilitating several conference forums but also had the opportunity to attend sessions of my own choosing.
The second conference I attended was the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL) Annual Conference, February 4-7, 2018, in Monterey, California. This conference marked and celebrated the end of my year as the 2017 ACNL president (full board photo to the right). ACNL is a state organization for nursing leaders across the state. Attending this annual event allows me to learn more about topics that significantly impact California healthcare and nursing practice and promote awareness of statewide legislative issues. This event attracts an audience of nurse leaders from a variety of academic and practice settings across California.
In reflecting on the benefits of both conferences, I have the following thoughts on the importance of attending state and national professional conferences: select conferences that have both statewide and national significance to your professional role, invest in yourself, and take the opportunity to benefit from networking.
SHARPENING THE SAW
Stephen Covey lists “sharpening the saw” as the seventh habit of highly effective people. The application of this idea to conference attendance is that sometimes you must take a break from the “work” of your work to sharpen your skills. A dull axe won’t cut a tree as effectively as a sharp one. Although it can be difficult to get away from work and home responsibilities, I know that I always return from a conference with new ideas and approaches that make me more effective, efficient, and energized at work.
INVESTING IN CAREER
Leaving the office and “sharpening the saw” is investing in yourself. It’s admitting that you’re worth it and that you still have things to learn. It’s an investment in yourself, your career, and your organization. When you invest your time in attending a conference, you’re showing that you’re investing in your own growth and lifelong learning. Similarly, faculty development funding demonstrates that Vanguard is dedicated to investing in faculty by funding conference attendance.
Lastly, there are no substitutions for meeting new colleagues and renewing connections with established colleagues in a conference environment. Good conferences have opportunities for attendees to mix and mingle, form new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. Over coffee, lunch, or dinner, you can make connections and at a breakout session, you may find yourself sitting next to a future colleague or mentor. Take advantage of those opportunities, extend yourself, collect and give out business cards liberally, and make follow-up contact with new colleagues after you get home. Stay connected and you’ll find that you have a professional network that can enrich your professional life now and in the future.
Room with a View: Monterey Sunrise
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113:3