12 Tips to Get the Most Out of Conferences

12 Tips to Get the Most Out of Conferences

Professional nursing conferences provide extensive learning and networking opportunities. These informative and inspiring gatherings can also feel intimidating. Make your first—or next conference—an enjoyable and productive experience with these 12 tips:

1. Plan ahead.

Register early and take advantage of discounts and the opportunity to book a room where the conference is held. Being in the same space as speakers and panelists increases the possibility of meeting them and making new connections.

2. Define your goals.

Do you want to pick up best practice recommendations, learn about cutting-edge innovations, earn continuing education hours, or chat with a career-boosting contact? Maybe you want to meet a few Facebook friends in person. It’s important to arrive with clear objectives.

3. Review the schedule.

Mark the sessions you want to attend, especially those offered at the same time. Formulate a game plan. Offer to swap notes with friends attending the other panels. Don’t know anyone going? Make it a point to meet people at the conference and share information.

4. Get registration materials ASAP.

Skip long registration lines by arriving early. Familiarize yourself with the convention space and layout of rooms. Don’t be the person looking for a session that started 10 minutes ago at the other end of the building.

5. Take time to reflect.

Information overload is real. Organize thoughts, notes, handouts, and other materials to share what you learned with your colleagues back home.

 6. Pack must-haves.

A hectic schedule may keep you from returning to your hotel room to gargle before meeting someone. Keep gum, mints, and other grooming essentials on you.

7. Network.

Connect with the best and brightest colleagues and thought leaders from across the nation, and depending on the event, from around the world. You never know who you will meet to help advance your career.

8. Practice opening lines.

Easily start conversations with anyone (looking as awkward as you feel) with time-tested questions that include:

  • Is this your first time at this conference?
  • What are your highlights so far?
  • Which sessions are you most excited about? (Note taker alert: Hopefully the same ones you can’t attend.)

9. Connect with social media. 

Stay in contact with new connections through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Include in your message a reminder of where you met and thank your new connections for speaking with you.

10. Stay current.

Sessions present the latest in technology, research, and procedures in nursing practice. By attending, you increase your knowledge and value.

11. Visit the exhibit hall.

In one spot, view the latest products, services, and equipment to improve patient outcomes. Meet exhibitors and representatives from the colleges and universities and nursing organizations and pick up some swag.

12. Pursue continuing education.

Take advantage of the opportunity to earn continuing nursing education (CNE) credit required to renew your license,take certification exams or attend sessions to prepare for them.

A conference is a great opportunity for professional development and for providing an overall sense of rejuvenation. Maximize your experience with preparation.

Passing It On: How to Be a Mentor

Passing It On: How to Be a Mentor

Mentors can be some of the most important people in your life. Perhaps one—or even more than one—has helped you during different times in your nursing career.

You know the value of mentorship, and now you’d like to be one. But you’re not sure what to do.

Luckily, as when you’re mentored, there are others to show you the way.

The Importance of Mentoring

For more than 20 years, Janice Nuuhiwa, MSN, RN, APN/CNS, CPHON, has mentored nurses as well as nursing students. “I’ve benefited from the influence of mentorship throughout my career,” says Nuuhiwa. “Mentorship is a crucial aspect of professionalism, and a mentor is needed in every stage of career development.”

Janice Nuuhiwa, MSN, RN, APN/CNS, CPHON

Janice Nuuhiwa, MSN, RN, APN/CNS, CPHON

While she worked for more than 10 years as a bedside nurse, Nuuhiwa now is a staff development specialist in the Division of Hematology/Oncology/Neuro-Oncology/Stem Cell Transplantation at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She says that the nature of her job involves being a mentor to nurses who need one, and all of the mentoring she does is important.

“Mentors can be the difference between nurses staying or leaving the profession,” says Nuuhiwa. “A nurse satisfied with his/her career and confident in the manner in which s/he delivers care benefits the patients, families, nurse, and institution.”

Benjamin Evans, DD, DNP , RN, APN, PMHCNS-BC, has served as a mentor for more than 30 years and during his 41 years in nursing, he’s had a number of mentors who have helped him. “As I have gone through my career, there have been times when I had longed for a mentor, but could not find one with the requisite knowledge. For example—how to start a private practice in an age before business concepts were introduced into nursing curricula,” explains Evans, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Felician University in Lodi, New Jersey. “Those nurses whom I’ve met who did not have mentors have shared similar experiences of needing guidance and support, but not having it. They learned by doing, through trial and error. Mentors can help bypass some of that struggle.”

How Mentorships Happen

Benjamin Evans, DD, DNP, RN, APN, PMHCNS-BC

Benjamin Evans, DD, DNP, RN, APN, PMHCNS-BC

Evans believes that mentors often just “happen” when the right people connect. If you sense someone could benefit from your knowledge, experience, and skills, reach out to him or her. There are, though, other ways to become a mentor as well.

If you don’t find a mentoring opportunity naturally, check to see if the institution where you work has a formal mentoring program, suggests Nuuhiwa. If you belong to a professional organization, check if it has a mentoring program. You can also reach out to your colleagues to see if one of them can benefit from your help.

You can even go to the nursing school you attended to see if they have a need for mentors, says Sheniqua Johnson, RN, MSN, an RN instructor at Partners in Care, a licensed home care agency that is part of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. “No one asked me to be a mentor to my trainees. I saw the need and acted on it because that is who I am as a person,” she says.

What Mentors Provide

Sheniqua Johnson, RN, MSN

Sheniqua Johnson, RN, MSN

“Empowered people empower people,” says Johnson. “Mentors give advice; they never tell people what to do. Health care is not an easy profession, and it can certainly take a toll on even the best of us. As a mentor, I try to alleviate that stress by showing ways to eradicate it.”

Evans hopes that the people he mentors learn the importance of the nursing profession within health care on a state as well as a national level. “By working with mentees, my goal is to increase their knowledge and skills around issues that are important to nursing and help them get the basic skills to become active and add their voices to nursing in the wider public arena,” he says. Determine what skills you have that may help the mentee progress. Start small, he says, and work on a task or project with someone you may want to mentor. If it’s a good experience, you may want to proceed.

Mentors can also help others, Nuuhiwa says, by helping them actualize goals, sharing experiences, providing encouragement, and sharing successes. “I have had several mentors throughout the various stages of my nursing career,” she says. “Each one assisted in sculpting me as a professional.” She learned how to establish professional boundaries, fine-tune her conflict management and communication style, and share her knowledge so that she became a public speaker. “I have had mentors cultivate areas of interest as well as redirect my approach to particular aspects of professionalism, all in an encouraging, engaging manner.”

Parting Thoughts

“My advice to those wanting to mentor is to be yourself,” says Johnson. “Oftentimes, the mentees will come to you because they see qualities in you that they aspire to achieve.”


“Begin by taking a nurse ‘under your wings.’ Listen to the person’s challenges and issues,” Evans says. “Mentees often become good friends [with the mentor] and stay connected. Mentoring is a two-way street, and I often gain from serving as a mentor. I highly recommend it.”

Why You Should Join a Nursing Association

Why You Should Join a Nursing Association

If you’ve only given professional nursing associations a passing thought, it’s time to think hard about the benefits of joining one (or even two!). Many nurses find their membership is one of the most valuable resources they use in their professional—and even oftentimes personal—lives.

Nursing associations are organizations devoted to the professional and personal development of members and also to the general advancement of the profession. Associations offer extensive benefits for membership. Through a professional association you can stay current in the industry, network with other professionals, find a mentor (or become a mentor), access many services, and find opportunities for professional growth. But what many members also find invaluable is the camaraderie that you can only find with others who do what you do.

Choosing the Right Association

How do you know which association is best for you? It comes down to what you’d like the association to do for you, how it fits into your professional and personal life, and what you want to contribute to the organization.

If you’ve never joined a professional nursing organization, you can’t go wrong with a national association like the American Nurses Association. The ANA has local chapters that will let you work closely with your community and also give you access to their large and varied network of resources.

Moreover, there’s no reason not to join more than one association. If you have a particular specialty, there is likely a professional nursing association that targets your niche. Some of these include the Academy of Neonatal Nursing and the Association of Camp Nurses. The National Association of Hispanic Nurses and the National Black Nurses Association are geared toward minority nurses, and others might address the professional concerns of cardiac or OB/GYN nurses.

If you’re a student nurse, the National Student Nurses’ Association is an excellent and dependable resource on everything from scholarships to career planning to even getting an article published. They have chapters nationwide. But if you’re looking for something more local, check out your school or nearby schools for specific associations, such as the Minority Student Nurses Association (MSNA) of the University of Missouri-St. Louis or the Boston College Student Nurses Association.

The Benefits

Some larger organizations offer classes and lectures that can help you earn professional credits; most hold national conferences; some offer insurance benefits and student discounts; and plenty of these large organizations offer career help and networking opportunities.

As with anything else, you will get more out of an association membership if you put something into it. Get involved on a committee, go to the conference, participate in lectures and events, attend and mingle at networking events, and contribute to the newsletter.

Using the association’s resources will help you meet people and grow your own professional network, but will also help you really identify with the other nurses where you can share your professional difficulties and triumphs. If you are experiencing something, it’s pretty likely that you’re not the only one and members of an association often offer help and support you won’t find in other places.