What’s the value of a healthcare conference?

First things first, a little back ground is in order. Most people probably don’t realize that hospital pharmacists aren’t allowed out much. This is especially true when it comes to sending pharmacists to conferences. It’s expensive and often creates a hole in the work schedule. In my experience the general rule of thumb is that hospitals will pay for a pharmacist to attend one out of state conference every other year. The nearly universal exception has been when a pharmacist is presenting a poster or giving a formal presentation, and then most facilities are willing to spring for the pharmacist to attend.

I’ve been fortunate over the past several months to attend a couple of conferences. I attended ASHP Midyear in December for the first time ever and recently attended the unSUMMIT for the first time ever. Both provided me with a lot of great information and the opportunity to meet some great healthcare professionals. By gathering hundreds, or even thousands, or people together with similar interests you create an environment of learning that cannot be matched in online chat rooms, by social media, by reading journals or through the use of virtual meetings. There’s just something about being face to face with someone that enhances the experience. I digress.

When I returned from the unSUMMIT I did what I always do after attending a conference; sat down with one of my bosses and spilled my guts about what I learned and where I think we could benefit from someone else’s failures or successes. Being a good manager, my boss listened to everything I had to say, acted interested when necessary and asked appropriate questions. The result, however, was a little disappointing as the ability to implement nearly all the changes would require financial and labor resources that aren’t currently available. In the end most of what I picked up will potentially go to waste.

So I ask you, what is the value of a conference? I think the answer to that question is different for everyone. Some may be looking for a few days out of the pharmacy or a chance to take an all-expenses paid vacation. Others will take the opportunity to grow professionally and use that information to advance their careers. Still others will use the time to gain valuable knowledge to improve the practice setting at their facility. All have merit in one form or another.

Regardless of your reasons for attending, I believe that every opportunity to meet with like-minded professionals holds promise. Every pharmacist should take advantage of these rare opportunities as the information they gain can serve to both expand their knowledgebase and better the pharmacists around them.

I’ve enjoyed gallivanting around over the past several months. Unfortunately I think my wings have been clipped as budgets continue to shrink and belts tighten. With that said I still have ASHP Midyear 2010 on my radar. Hope to see you there.

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