As a former manager for a sterile processing unit and a private consultant, I have had the unique privilege of having both presented and attended sessions at various conferences over the years. Professional conferences have so many advantages and just a couple of challenges. The benefits so far outweigh any negative, I cannot recommend them enough. Here are some reasons why you should attend conferences:
There are great educational opportunities. The chance to absorb fresh concepts, emerging norms, and upcoming practices is invaluable. When you attend a conference, not only are you taking in new information for yourself, but you can share it with many people in your organization when you return to work. There are hidden dotted lines that connect all of our collective work. We just do not always see them.
You can network with fellow professionals. Catching up with peers and old friends—or making new ones—over coffee or drinks is always enjoyable. But this kind of interaction is much more than social. Conferences are great places to brainstorm and learn about new opportunities in your field.
You’ll learn to think in new ways. When you get away from work and are encouraged to think about your professional challenges in a new setting, you can see new possibilities. When you leave a space that becomes comfortable (even if you have nagging issues at work, there is comfort in sameness for many), it allows you to become open to new ideas and concepts. Many of us subscribe to publications, but who really reads every article? At a conference, you can personally tailor your experience, selecting components or sessions that complement your goals or satisfy your interests, both from “big picture” and more specialized perspectives. How is this possible? You will hear from individuals with varied work responsibilities, authority levels, politics, and backgrounds.
You’ll be able to give more back at work (yes, your career). That happens because of what I’ve described above, but it also happens subconsciously simply by becoming more engaged! You became engaged the minute you packed your suitcase and decided, “Yes, I am worth this experience, and so is my employer.”
Leaving your routine to enter a space where diversity and ideas flourish can be career changing in so many ways. Yes, there’s a fee to attend conferences, but if you did (and you should) complete a simple cost analysis, the professional value enjoyed by you and others in your organization would fair outweigh any initial outlay. Remember to share what you’ve learned with your colleagues back on the job. Sharing knowledge is an obligation. Holding information as power is harmful; allow others to shine!
I hope to see you at the upcoming AAMI Annual Conference & Expo in Philadelphia.
Michele DeMeo is the former sterile processing manager at Memorial Hospital in York, PA. A champion of the sterilization and reprocessing field, DeMeo is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.