A Community of Exceptional Nurses
The Greater Washington Area Chapter (GWAC) of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) knows that critical care nursing is a dynamic, ever-changing profession. We believe the critical care nurse is increasingly responsible for maintaining a high level of clinical competency related to technological and therapeutic advances, and that it is imperative to keep up with the constantly changing technology, new procedures and the latest nursing research.
For 25 years, our chapter has endeavored to provide various educational opportunities. Our Spotlight on Critical Care — a two-day conference featuring a variety of topics highlighting advances in critical care, complex patient assessment, innovations in patient management, evidence-based best practices and future directions of critical care — provides networking opportunities to meet with other professionals and discuss recent trends in the care of the critically ill and their families.
Our planning committee consists of 30+ members who have a variety of nursing professional backgrounds — from bedside nurse to nursing educators and unit directors. Many of GWAC’s board members have participated, serving as chair and co-chair or acting as lead on the subcommittees for Speakers, Vendors, Proceedings Materials and Evaluations.
Planning begins in January beginning with an analysis of the compiled evaluations from the previous conference and then meeting monthly to plan the next conference.
To assist us in determining learner needs and establish program goals, our conference attendees receive a packet including a “Needs Assessment” to evaluate what they would like to see presented at future conferences. This assessment is utilized by the planning committee to guide the choosing of the topics and speakers for the next conference.
In 2009, we implemented a pediatric track, and this year we are offering an emergency/trauma track to meet the requests for topics supporting the educational needs of these nursing specialties. We also use the speaker evaluations that are submitted at the end of each day in which they review the individual speakers based on coverage of content objectives, effectiveness of presentation and knowledge gained.
Last year we had a speaker address the issue of nurses and retirement planning. This speaker will be returning again this year based on the outstanding level of interest and superb evaluations.
Presentations are in a lecture and interactive format with audio/visual support and cover a wide array of topics ranging from the body systems to the psycho/social aspects of nursing. This year’s presentations range from topics in advanced therapies and procedures, such as NAVA therapy and therapeutic hypothermia to world/social awareness — including nursing beyond borders and the Haiti disaster.
When planning such a large conference featuring 40+ speakers, five breakouts per session with four sessions per day plus opening and closing keynotes, our chapter is fortunate to have many nationally recognized speakers in our metropolitan area. This helps lesson the financial impact of securing speakers while meeting the needs of our attendees and staying within our budget.
With the economical impact and hospital budget shortages, our committee seriously looked at ways to tighten our budget without impacting the quality of the conference. We substantially reduced the program materials costs by placing the outlines on CD instead of printing a manual — reducing these costs from over $10,000 to less than $5,000.
This year our outlines will be offered online and vendors are sponsoring more speakers, which will further defray expenses.
GWAC also offers a one-day conference to our area’s advanced practice nurses through a Spring Spotlight. In the past, this one-day conference was topic specific, such as sepsis or cardiology, but it was felt we needed to provide more opportunities to our advanced practice nurses.
The committee is lead by one of our advanced practice members who sits on the board as a liaison. Along with some of our fall conference committee members, she coordinates the topics suitable to meet the needs of our advanced practice nurses.
GWAC proudly coordinates a 10 week critical care consortium — a program focused on the training of nurses coming into critical care including new-graduate nurses. The educators from 10 area hospital provide the educational expertise as lecturers. This past session, GWAC offered four scholarships valued at $500 per student.
We also provide our members with several dinner meetings at area restaurants featuring speakers from a local university hospital and experts provided by our vendors. One dinner highlighted care of the stroke patient with the lecture given by a well-known neurologist who presented results from his research. Another dinner highlighted the treatment for hyponatremia, and one dinner was held to celebrate certification of nurses at our area hospitals. In all, seven dinner meetings were held over the past year with plans for several more next year.
GWAC has a goal each year to provide educational opportunities that enhance nursing practice and this has been behind the successful planning and implementation for our annual two-day conference, Spotlight on Critical Care, Spring Spotlight, dinner meetings and our consortium. We will continue to strive to bring these learning opportunities in a fiscally responsible manner to ensure the preservation of our chapter assets.
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