Why Attending Anesthesia Conferences Could Save Your Career

Anesthesia conferences provide presentations and seminars to help us keep patients safe and alive through their most vulnerable times. But how does attending a conference help you during your most vulnerable times in your career?
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Anesthesia Conference

Anesthesia conferences provide presentations and seminars to help us keep patients safe and alive through their most vulnerable times. But how can they save your career?

In training, I tried to go to as many anesthesia conferences as possible. They were great. A break from clinicals. Visiting a new city with classmates. Checking out lectures and learning what other people were doing. Talking to vendors about their latest and greatest devices or scoping out job opportunities.

And let’s be honest, the best part were the dinners hosted by companies recruiting or promoting a product. Who doesn’t love a free dinner at a high-end restaurant where you couldn’t have even afforded an appetizer during your anesthesia training. Sign me up.

Times Change

Then, like most of my colleagues, I started practicing and the idea of attending a conference was not high on my list. If I was going to use time off it was going to be on a real vacation and I could always get my CME’s online from the comfort of my own couch. Over the course of six years of practicing, I did not step a single foot into an anesthesia conference. 

However, that all changed when an old classmate invited me to a weekend-long conference. I had not seen him for several years. We could never get the timing right to connect and this would be the perfect opportunity. I thought the best part of attending would be catching up with my buddy, but what I learned was that I had been living on an island for too long with my anesthesia group. 

Now, I don’t actually live on an island. I do love working with the people that make up my practice and I am not suggesting moving, but I realized my world of anesthesia was concentrated around the hospital. Outside information would come in through reading anesthesia journals or updates from anesthesia associations. However, there was little connection to the rest of the anesthesia community. 

At this point you might be thinking, “I like living on my island. Everything is great.” 

Like most things in life you don’t realize what you’re missing out on until you experience it. By not attending conferences you are missing out on keeping your anesthesia career fresh, energized and maintaining job security.

When Was Anesthesia the Most Fun and Exciting? 

When asking that question to anesthesia clinicians the answer is almost always, “During training or the first couple years of practicing”. Everything was new. We were all in the same boat working extremely hard towards the goal of becoming excellent anesthesia clinicians. 

Over the years we get into a routine. Many anesthesia providers I talk to have expressed, at some point, not having that fire of when they first started. A few close friends have even confided in me about possibly leaving anesthesia. That’s when I invite them to a conference. 

In a way, it’s going back to your roots of when you were in training and excited about everything anesthesia. Connecting with old classmates, instructors or mentors and catching up on life and swapping stories from your anesthesia training days is just good for the soul. It’s also a great chance to get an outside perspective or advice on issues you might be dealing with at your practice from people you trust. Maybe you end up being the one helping them with a solution to a workplace problem they are dealing with in their practice. 

Networking is Not Just for Business People

Why should you network? Collaboration opportunities and job security.

Anesthesia conferences bring in people from all over the country and your chance to interact with new people and make connections. Conversations can lead to great opportunities to work with other people on projects, be invited to join a committee or participate in future conferences. Make sure to talk with vendors from anesthesia management companies and hospitals even if you are not currently looking for a job. The healthcare market is in turmoil with over 20 hospitals closing per year and anesthesia management groups winning and losing contracts, you never know when you might need to find a new job. Making that connection now can lead to an easier transition when you need it. 

With each person you meet you are setting yourself up for unknown opportunities that can be fulfilling or provide professional growth.

If you feel uncomfortable just striking up a conversation with other clinicians, sign up for a workshop. Workshops are generally comprised of smaller groups and highly interactive. It’s easier to strike up a conversation in these smaller settings, especially when you are learning together. 

At my last conference, I attended a workshop and sat next to a CRNA from North Carolina. After the workshop, we shared stories about our practices and the job market. We talked for 45 minutes, exchanged information, and now we both have another person in our network. And of course the workshops are great for furthering your knowledge or obtaining a proficiency in a certain anesthesia technique. 

CMEs That Don’t Involve Home Furniture

Of course I cannot forget one of the main reasons to attend a conference, CMEs. Obtaining CMEs from lectures and workshops are more educational and stimulating than sitting on your couch reading them. You are surrounded by other incredibly smart anesthesia clinicians. This can lead to great Q&A sessions after a presentation. There is also an opportunity to talk with other attendees about their experiences on what was presented. What is even better is the chance to talk to the presenter and ask questions or continue the discussion. You can’t do that after reading an article from your living room.

Conferences are a great way to get energized and excited about anesthesia again. Just walking through the doors of your society’s annual anesthesia conference, the buzz of excitement can be felt in the air. The social interaction, networking and lectures might just be the things to save your career. But most importantly, when you are energized and up to date on current practices you will practice at your peak performance..

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