Nursing Conferences: Posters and Sponsors and Spiders, Oh My!

  1. This article is about my experience at the Nursing Education Research Conference in Washington DC in April of 2018. I discuss my take-aways from the conference, as well as the many reasons you should attend (and present at!) a nursing conference. I also tell a story of unexpected spiders, so if you don’t like spiders – don’t read this article

    Nursing Conferences: Posters and Sponsors and Spiders, Oh My!

    I just went to the Nursing Education Research Conference1 (NERC) in Washington DC, and it was incredible. I have been to several conferences this year, but the NERC was my favorite because attending it was like finding my people. If you are into nursing education and nursing research, this is the conference for you.


    Nurses attend conferences for many reasons. I often meet retired nurses who go for fun. They get a big discount, and they love staying involved in the profession - these are some of my favorite people to meet at conferences because of the historical perspective they can give about the nursing profession. I so enjoy hearing stories of hanging glass IV bottles, and calculating drip rates while attempting to evade flirtatious doctors ogling their white stocking-clad legs.

    Other reasons to attend conferences include free stuff. There is always at least one giveaway - usually you can enter to win an ipad or free registration for the following year. This year at the NERC they were giving away an Echo Dot for the person who tweeted the most (I came in second...argh #NERC18). Exhibitors and sponsors always give away fun stuff - which means you don't have to buy souvenirs for your kids. This year I picked up a yoyo, several pop-its for my smart phone, a drug book, 3000 pens, and a fan that lights up, as well as lots of candy.

    Networking is another reason to attend. You can find out what it's like to work somewhere else, look for a job, meet nurse entrepreneurs, get a book signed by the author, share research ideas, find new opportunities and make connections that might help you with your career. There are often workshops on how to find a job, write a resume, create a podcast, and even how to network (it's a learned skill, for sure).

    Adding to your resume is yet another reason to attend. I presented a poster at this conference, and you can also apply to be a speaker. For many nurses in academia, attending conferences is a way to complete requirements for tenure. One of the speakers at the NERC actually presented on ways to get your abstract accepted, so check it out in the references2.

    Conferences are also an opportunity to get away and relax or try something new. Often the hotel you stay in has a hot tub and a workout room. I always get caught up on work - I like to sit in the hotel bar and drink a beer and use the free WiFi. In addition, you can explore a new city and eat new and interesting foods. I hadn't been to DC in years, and I so enjoyed walking to the mall and seeing the Lincoln Memorial again. I always go out on some adventure at a conference - keep reading to find out about my arachnid encounter at the NCNA conference last fall.

    Learning is probably the most popular reason for going to a conference. At the NERC, there were presentations on podcasting, online teaching, best-practice in education, creating a civil work environment and fostering racial equity in the classroom. At the ANA conference I attend last fall, it was a totally different skill set - there were workshops and speakers sessions on wound care, preventing extravasation and other bedside nursing skills, as well as management tips and self-care tools to take home. The keynote speakers are always so skillful, and will often make you laugh as well as teach you something. One of the most entertaining speakers I have ever seen is ZDOGG MD - a physician who is also a rapper -he has a YouTube channel, and his videos crack me up.3

    The most important thing I learned at this conference is about the Virginia Henderson Repository.4 The repository is open access and is a place to put your nursing research. You can submit any project (capstone, thesis, dissertation) even if it is on ProQuest, because you still own the rights to it. If you are in doubt about submission guidelines, just shoot them an email. Their goal is to be the largest open access repository of information, so please consider submitting something today. Many of the references for this article are on their site. If we share our information freely, patient outcomes can only improve.

    I went to the NERC to present a poster on my dissertation research. You can see the poster on the Virginia Henderson Repository site. My research is on the effect of Root Cause Analysis on nursing student attitudes and knowledge of safe medication administration practices (I know, it's a mouthful).5 I was also there to look for a job. I visited each of the exhibitors and sponsors and handed out my card or signed up for more information, and talked myself up: "just got my PhD, looking for an online faculty position, would love to talk!" Everyone was so kind and encouraging. I made a point of sitting with different people at each meal and forced myself to talk (as outgoing as I am sometimes, this is a big challenge for me - it's hard to strike up a conversation with strangers). My mom always taught me to lead with questions, and it seems to work. The most fun I had was asking the presenter on podcasting if I could record her presentation for my podcast...SO META! She agreed and I have included the youtube video with this article - thought you might enjoy Improving Learning Outcomes with Podcasting by Joanne McDermott, PhD6


    allnurses has great nursing conference coverage. Click HERE to go to their link7 - there's a conference for any interest: critical care, gastroenterology, wound care, pediatrics and don't forget the National Student Nurses Association! So many to choose from- it can be hard to narrow it down. Your state nursing association conference is always a great place to start; they are often very encouraging of nurses who are new to research. You might also go to a conference in your specialty area. When I was an oncology nurse, the Oncology Nursing Conference was always informative and a great place to learn new information to take back to bedside practice.


    Conferences can be expensive, and even if you can afford the registration fee ($400 for the NERC), you have to take off work, and travel, and stay in a hotel and eat fancy food - it all adds up. Many places of work will subsidize your trip, however - especially if you can justify why going will add value to your organization. For example, at the NCNA conference I went to last fall, there were many nurses from my hometown hospital presenting quality improvement and best practice posters. Sharing information about best practice is how we improve patient safety and save lives. The nurses who presented were well-supported by their hospital employers. Nurses from schools of nursing also attend conferences with a stipend. Many get a certain number of conferences they can attend each year, others have a certain number of days they can spend at conferences.


    When I was at the NCNA conference last fall, I stayed with a local friend in Cary, NC who told me about a running route out the back door of the hotel where I was staying. I fussed around for a while after the conference and didn't start my run until almost dusk. I found the trail right away, and it was a beautiful evening, all soft pink sky, warm breezes and crickets. I was lost in my own little world of the audiobook I was listening to, when I realized the trail had ended. I was knee deep in a grassy area between a high, chain-link fence, and the woods. The really fun part? Spiders! Every ten feet or so there was a GIANT spider-web going from the ground to the top of the trees or the fence with GIANT red spiders - one in the middle of each web. My cell phone was dying, so I had to choose between using the phone as a light or saving my battery for googlemaps, or getting an uber... (I DO realize I could have just turned back, but what fun would that have been?) I kept on going, learned a few things about myself that night, 1) I am an idiot and, 2) I laugh when I am scared. I knew I wasn't in any real danger - it was a big bunch of non-venomous American house spiders - but the thought of them landing on me kept giving me the willies....I also felt guilty about invading their spider space - every web you trash is a home destroyed, and some mosquitos or flies that go uneaten.

    Obviously I made it...I know you were worried. When I finally got back the hotel 2 hours later, I was ridiculously happy. My phone was dead, I was thirsty, I was tired, I was dirty, but I had been on an adventure and lived to tell the tale. I gulped down a glass of water, followed it with a white Russian and watched reality TV for half the night. Ah the joys of attending a nursing conference.


    1. Nursing Education Research Conference - 2018: Nursing Education Research Conference 218

    2. Presentation Tips and Tricks: Getting Accepted and Engaging Your Audience

    3. ZDoggMD- YouTube

    4. Virginia Henderson Global Nursing e-Repository

    5. Effect of Root Cause Analysis on Senior-Level Nursing Students Attitudes about and understanding of safe medication administration practices

    6. Improving Learning Outcomes With Podcasting Link to video of presentation: Podcasting for student success! - YouTube

    7. allnurses conference coverage

    MAP oF MY RUN, including labelled areas of where spiders are located.
    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 15
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?

  2. Visit SafetyNurse1968 profile page

    About SafetyNurse1968, PhD, RN

    Kristi Miller just got her doctorate in nursing. She is enjoying NOT writing her dissertation, and spending her free time crafting the perfect cover letter. In her spare time she is raising 4 children and a husband, and obsessing over patient safety. Find out more at

    Joined: Jun '11; Posts: 142; Likes: 375
    Nurse Entrepreneur; from NC , US
    Specialty: Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety

    Read My Articles


  3. by   SafetyNurse1968
    Here is a link to Joanne McDermott's talk - it didn't make it into the article!