Why face-to-face networking among nurses is vital to healthcare

As nurses continuously work to improve their skills and knowledge, they have various tools, such as online education, specialized training, peer-reviewed journals and clinical trials and research, at their disposal. But the in-person meetings — conferences, symposiums and summits with medical associations and societies — also offer much value to nurses' education and growth.

"Inspired while attending one of their conferences, nurses have gone on to initiate new education and training programs, new research-based practices and new protocols that improve the care and safety of patients," says Kaye Englebrecht, director in SmithBucklin's Healthcare + Scientific Industry Practice. "That's why nurses meet — to collaborate and share ideas, knowledge and best practices so that they can return to their jobs better able to help their patients."

With more than 11 years of experience working with nursing associations, Ms. Englebrecht serves as executive director for both the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses and the Association for Nursing Professional Development.

Here, she provides four thoughts on why these face-to-face meetings are vital to the healthcare industry.

1. Exposure to new approaches. There's a lot of value in nurses from different regions and backgrounds talking with one another about how they approach a particular practice or challenge. "The conversation starts with, 'We do it this way because …,' and then they give their colleague the evidence-based practice that shows why," Ms. Englebrecht says.

2. Education and training. Meetings offer nurses opportunities to receive their continuing education units. Ms. Englebrecht says SmithBucklin, which serves 10 nursing organizations, works closely with the American Nurses Credentialing Center to ensure their nursing associations are accredited and able to provide a high level of professional nursing educational program. SmithBucklin also tailors its programs to ensure the content is current and relevant so that it meets members' needs.

3. One-on-one connections. Many nursing organizations have been around for decades, and some nurses have had relationships that have lasted just as long, thanks to these face-to-face meetings. Young nurses find mentors who guide them on their career path. Even if a nurse only sees the colleague once a year at a conference, that person may still be their go-to throughout their career. Others will seek out their network to help solve on-the-job problems. "You see them hug [at these face-to-face meetings]. They have that connection, the connection they made 30 years ago. You can know who you can turn to when you need a question answered," Ms. Englebrecht says.

She believes attendance is growing for nursing organizations' meetings because nurses value those one-on-one connections. She says nurses are deeply connected in a personal way with the patients they care for, so that translates into what they do in their careers. They understand the importance of those personal connections and they want to maintain them.

4. A comfortable environment to problem-solve. When nurses walk into a room and there are 1,000 other people who do what they do, they feel like it's family and like they can ask questions, according to Ms. Englebrecht. "I think when you get a group of people in a room, there's just a different dynamic that goes on. You can see people's facial expressions and you can see their body language, and I think it's just a better environment to talk about how to creatively solve problems," she says. "They feel like they have resources to go to. There's just an energy there you can't replicate through social media or chat or email," she says.


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