Nursing Conferences Benefit Staff and Patients


While Carol Pehotsky, MSN, RN, CPAN, ACNS-BC, loves her work as the assistant director of perioperative nursing at Cleveland Clinic, she relishes the opportunity to “get out of Dodge” and attend conferences. “The first time I went to a conference I was a clinical nurse,” says Pehotsky. “It opened my eyes to some things we could do differently, but it also made me really appreciative of the direction our nurse leaders have for providing the best patient care.”

Cleveland Clinic encourages nurses to participate in conferences at the local, regional and national level. “Conferences help with professional development and networking,” says Janie Burke, MBA, BSN, RN, CPN, NE-BC, clinical nursing director at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “They also open the doors to lots of opportunities for idea sharing and information gathering.”

Nurses at Cleveland Clinic get involved in conferences on multiple levels by attending conventions, presenting at events and even hosting conferences:

  • Attending – “Conferences offer the opportunity for so much growth and knowledge acquisition,” says Burke. Nurses often come away from conferences with ideas to implement. When frontline nurses in the pediatric ICU at Cleveland Children’s Hospital attended the 2011 Pediatric Nursing Conference, they learned about a method to reduce distractions during medication delivery, thereby making it safer. The following year, the PICU instituted the Red Light Project, developed by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Red bicycle lights are mounted outside each room. When the lights are on, nurses are administering medication and should not be disturbed.
  • Presenting – Pehotsky began making presentations at nursing conferences three years ago. Now she’s hooked. “I walk away feeling empowered,” she says. “The feedback you get from attendees is amazing.” Most recently, she gave two presentations at the national conference of the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses in April: One was on diabetic management for patients undergoing surgery, and the other covered innovations in general surgery procedures.
  • Hosting – Cleveland Clinic hosts nursing conferences and symposiums in various specialties, ranging from the Ambulatory Nursing Conference to the Nursing Research Conference. In 2005, the Children’s Hospital held its first Neonatal Nursing Conference. “It has been spearheaded, organized and run by our staff nurses,” says Burke. What started as an initiative on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus is now a national conference.

Cleveland Clinic supports involvement in conferences in many ways: It offers scholarships and other financial funding. The Center for Medical Art and Photography assists nurses with posters, PowerPoint presentations and other visuals necessary for conferences. But the biggest support is arguably the one-on-one mentoring that experienced nurses offer our novices.

Pehotsky has helped several nurses with poster and podium presentations. During a surgical leadership meeting, she heard about a project a bedside nurse was working on to improve pediatric skin care. Pehotsky met with the nurse several times to further her research. When the results were in, Pehotsky persuaded the nurse to create a poster presentation of her findings. The two met several more times to create the content and ensure it was vetted. The nurse’s poster was accepted at the Association of Perioperative Nurses’ 2014 Surgical Conference & Expo.

While nurses are the ones attending, presenting at and hosting conferences, it’s really the patients who come out on top. “Patients benefit not only from the ideas we bring back and changes we implement,” says Burke, “but also from having engaged, caring nurses.”