Having just returned from the ACORN Conference in Hobart where over 1000 perioperative nurses gathered for 3 days it got me thinking about why, in this electronic age we still find value in meeting together at conferences. Couldn’t we obtain all the information imparted at a conference via webinars, podcasts or YouTube? Why do we spend hundreds of dollars to travel hundreds of kilometres to spend three days with a thousand fellow perioperative nurses? I think the answer is simple, nothing compares to being in the company of like-minded people, who understand the challenges of being a perioperative nurse in 2016 and who also enjoy having a good time! And so it was at ACORN 2016 in Hobart. Phew, what a buzz! Lots of memorable moments.
But one moment stood out for me and happened by chance, a case of me being in the right place at the right time. One day a woman approached me during the lunch break, ‘Do you recognise me?’ she asked. It is a question I am often asked, usually by post graduate students who I have facilitated on line and who know me, but who, due to only having an online presence, I rarely get to meet face to face! Unfortunately I did not recognise the woman at first and had to tactfully ask (I have become quite good at this over the years) to give me a clue as to where we may have met before. ‘I’m Heather Moon’ she replied. I don’t think many people at the conference would have known that Heather Moon is a former ACORN President (1986-89). Fortunately I did (perhaps I have just been around ACORN for more years than I care to remember)! What a treat to meet her again, not many perioperative nurses from that era attend ACORN Conferences and her appearance that day was only by accident. She and her husband, David, had been staying at the conference venue the previous week for another event that he was attending. Returning for a further night’s stay, she saw the signs for the ACORN Conference and thought she would pop in to say hello! Heather comes from Queensland and I tracked down the ACORN Board members from the sunshine state, along with Ruth Melville, IFPN President and also a Queenslander who were equally thrilled to meet her. Current President, Jed Duff met Heather and a number of other conference attendees made her so welcome. She was escorted around the trade exhibition in awe at the array of latest equipment and medical devices. Later that day several of us met Heather and David again at the bar and over a few glasses of wine, shared memories of her time as ACORN President using photos I had as part of a montage prepared for a previous conference.
Heather was thrilled to have met up with so many perioperative colleagues and friends. We all left energised at meeting one of ACORN’s living treasures. It occurred to me after we had said our farewells, how much we owe our predecessors who nearly forty years ago, paved the way for where ACORN is in 2016 by their administrative skills, vision and commitment. In Heather’s day, ACORN was run by volunteers from each state/territory using telephone (no mobiles), snail mail (no email) and fax as the only means of communication, managing to coordinate the publication of the journal and standards, not to mention the enormous task of organising the national conference. Today, ACORN has a secretariat, email, webinars, video/teleconferences and external conference organisers – how times have changed and how much we take for granted!
When it all comes down to it, the conference is all about the people who attend – the networking, renewing of friendships, making new ones, gaining knowledge, sharing solutions to common challenges, meeting people who have influenced your career, have been your mentors or perhaps people you have mentored and above all lots of fun!
I always return from conferences with new ideas and a renewed approach to my work that I feel makes me more effective and efficient. Stephen Covey, in his influential book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, identifies this as ‘sharpening the saw’ – renewing yourself through making meaningful social connections with others, learning, increasing your capacity to face the challenges of life and work. The analogy – a sharp saw will cut more effectively than a dull one! And I think that is so true. ACORN Conference 2016 – memorable!
Covey, S. (1989) The 7 habits of highly effective people. USA:Running Press.