Times are changing for paramedics in Ontario and across Canada. We see greater professional development and a blossoming professional identity every day. Whether its the establishment of self regulatory bodies, new scopes of practice, emerging roles as paramedics or new research and education – its a pretty terrific time to be a professional paramedic here in Canada!
So with our profession growing and further developing into a medical specialty all by itself, what are you doing to foster growth in your personal and career life? Hmm? Sure we all attend mandatory continuing medical education (CME) days throughout the year. Our annual practice review, plus some service issued CME. Maybe we go out on our own to do an ACLS course, or PALS or ITLS? These are all fine and good courses. But what other options do paramedics have? Good thing you’re reading this article . . . .
Conventions and Conferences and Workshops, Oh my!
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that for the most part, paramedics may not be too familiar with the world of medical conferences. Or travelling internationally to them for that matter. Actually one of the biggest reasons I started this blog was to talk about the importance of combining travel and education – especially for the practitioner of paramedicine.
But every time I bring this concept up I am inundated with anxiety laden questions like: “How do I know which conference to check out?” or “Does this pertain to paramedics?” or “Won’t I be out of my element?!” and “Isn’t that super expensive and just a thing doctors do??”. So let me try and allay your worries, friends, with answers to some of these questions.
1.) Picking the Right Conference for You
Ultimately this is a wonderfully personal choice. If you’re a disciple of the #FOAMed or #FOAMems movement then undoubtedly you’ll be inundated with a barrage of conference ads telling you to go, go, GO! – lest you miss out on the “educational experience of a life time”. Well hold your horses – if you’re going to embark on this adventure you truly, truly have to find an event that speaks to your interests. Don’t let the FOMO monster get hold! So below I’ll provide a recap of few conferences I have attended and that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. Keeping in mind, this is not an endorsement but rather a review of an experience I had at a specific event.
EMS Gathering : Now I’m obviously a bit biased. This conference is one that caters specifically to paramedics and prehospital providers. And of course, it’s in Ireland (home sweet home!). The conference provides terrific lectures over the course of a few days and lets attendees sign up for incredible work shops that have, at previous conferences, included: EMSPOCUS (Point of Care Ultrasound) and The ATACC Group. Their credo of “Learning with Leisure” creates an open, welcoming and wonderful environment to interact with prehospital practitioners from around the world and further promotes paramedicine.
bad EM : I was very fortunate to have been able to attend one of the most unique and inspiring events I have ever experienced in South Africa this past March. Brave African Discussions in Emergency Medicine (#badEM18) was a conference unlike anything I have ever experienced. While not specifically geared towards prehospital practitioners there was certainly more than enough paramedicine represented here. The workshops were unreal, the setting was amazing, the lectures were terrific and most importantly: the comradery was unparalleled. Set against the beautiful South African landscape, this conference brought together inspiration, hope, knowledge and friendship. There was truly was an international delegation represented here from all specialties and all walks of life. A once in a life time experience for sure.
Paramedicine: Expo & Conference : If you want something a little more close to home, then please check out Ontario’s very own conference for paramedics! This conference is presented by The Ontario Paramedic Association and serves to address issues that directly effect Canadian paramedics both from Ontario and throughout Canada. If you’re new to conferences this might be the perfect place to start for you.
So there you have it folks, a list of conferences that truly speak to me. Now what does it for me, may not for you and that’s why it is so important to choose subject matter that interests you. I would also argue that at the end of the day one of the most important things about attending a conference isn’t necessarily the workshops, lectures or presentations. Its about the people you meet. People that inspire you and connections that may change your trajectory in life.
2.) Okay, I’ve registered. Now what?
I would say – prepare for an amazing time! Logistics can be a bit overwhelming so make sure you try and give yourself plenty of time to save, organize family and vacation time. In some cases you maybe able to request a short educational leave of absence from work. I would then highly recommend booking accommodation through whatever app or website you prefer. If you get a group of people going why not share a house or apartment?
Have you contacted your regulatory body / Base Hospital about CME credits? So this is a thing that paramedics often forget to do (I know I have. . . a few times. . . . and still forget to occasionally to this day). Send in the outline of the conference or workshop and see if you can get some of your annual CME credits taken care of! Maybe your service offers educational reimbursement? Can’t hurt to ask.
3.) Get Excited!
I cannot stress that enough! You’re going on an adventure. Amazing! Maybe you’re bringing your family or your partner? Even better. And you get to learn about a thing that you do extremely well, from other people who do similar things extremely well. Awesome.
I always tell my colleagues that adventure off to experience travelling education that its not always about the lectures or the workshops. It truly is about the experience. Travelling to conferences and work shops is something that is fairly common place with our MD and RN colleagues. But maybe not as common with paramedics. So embrace the adventure.
Now I well mention one caveat: #FOAMed. If you’re an avid user and consumer of this type of education then you should keep in mind that there’s a pretty good chance you’re already up on a lot of the new research and trends. Which is terrific! Conferences provide a platform to discuss these things with like minded individuals from your respective field. I’m not saying you won’t learn anything new from a conference – you get out what you put it. Also keeping in mind these venues also offer the opportunity to practice what you’ve learned through demonstration or workshops! So always keep that in mind.
4.) You’ve made it. Now what?
As our last point and perhaps the most important: what you do when you’re there? Like we’ve said, you’ve opted to go to a conference or a workshop. Perhaps abroad or even in your own country, but you’ve made the decision to partake in a great experience.
Go to the lectures, the workshops and the demo’s. See what’s being done and what’s being taught. Maybe you’re on top of all this stuff and know a lot of it already? Maybe it’s all brand new to you? Whatever the case, approach each situation respectfully, politely and with a willingness to learn and share. Appreciate the context in which other people work. Services maybe quite different internationally and even regionally – so don’t get into a “Well we do this. . . “ or “Why would you do that? . . . “ situation. Understand that every practitioner of paramedicine has their own scope, their own system and their own world they have to work in. Just because it’s different doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.
Make sure you break away from your comfort zone. Maybe you’ve brushed up on all the newest best practices in trauma? Awesome. So why not delve into something a little different at a conference? Leadership, Geriatric patient care, Pediatrics, Crew Resource Management, anything that you’re not overly familiar with might be a good place to explore.
Conferences, workshops and conventions aren’t just about education and knowledge translation. These events serve to inspire us, remind us why we got into the profession. They reinvigorate the mind, body and soul the same way travelling anywhere does and in many cases provide us with great life lessons. See a new place, do a new thing, experience another life far different from your own. You get to interact with people from your world who, sometimes, come from all around the world! Conferences can provide insight on where your career currently resides and the endless possibilities of where it could go. So go on, get out there and see what the world has to offer.