Getting The Most from Medical Conferences

June 29, 2020

Since many in-person conferences have been canceled or modified to offer remote programming, it’s a time for doctors to revisit the rewards of attending professional conferences and to strategically plan how to get the most out of them.

Medical conferences can uniquely enhance physicians’ careers. Since many in-person conferences have been canceled or modified to offer remote programming, it’s a time for doctors to revisit the rewards of attending professional conferences and to strategically plan how to get the most out of them.

Education

There are a number of valuable take-aways when it comes to medical conferences, and you might need to reconsider your priorities as you structure your meeting schedule while remote-only conferences are taking place. Keep in mind that as conferences begin to offer virtual programs out of necessity, some conference directors might also decide that it's a good idea to incorporate a partially remote option for people who can’t attend in person—even after the COVID-19 crisis passes. The primary measurable outcomes of medical conferences lie in education. Most programs have a well-defined and carefully curated curriculum and provide documentation of continuing medical education (CME). This is the reason that conference costs are often covered by employers, and the reason that you can use the expenditures as a business cost if you are self-employed.

Networking

Whether you go to an in-person meeting or attend remotely, the educational component helps you stay in tune with updates in your specialty that are of wide interest and that are considered relevant by the leadership and the majority of the members. Of course, you can always learn and study new information related to your specialty on your own, but there are benefits to staying current with what the dominant forces in your field have deemed to be a priority. Getting together with peers at all levels of experience is a major advantage of attending professional meetings—either in person or virtually. You may be familiar with the customs and turf wars that are common in your hospital or region, but these issues—and others that you may not even be aware of—can be very different at other places. Learning about a range of perspectives outside your own professional community takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you imagine possibilities that you can use to improve your job and career.

Socializing

Skills and career advancement

And of course, networking with new colleagues and old friends from your medical school and training years is a great way for you to learn about job opportunities and to recruit good doctors to your practice when you have an opening that you need filled. Relaxing with others at medical conferences isn’t always about networking or directly “gaining something.” Certainly, there are professional advantages to networking, but just enjoying the company of peers who you don’t normally get to see can be fun. This aspect of going to medical conferences can be missing from remote programs where spontaneity and personal connection might not be so easily attainable.Beyond straightforward specialty-specific education, many large conferences also provide opportunities for members to develop professional skills, like writing research grants or working on teaching residency competency. If you have an interest in getting more involved as a leader in your quality committee, for example, you may find a lecture or workshop focused on quality measures. Often, lectures and workshops about professional topics that aren’t directly relevant to hands-on patient care provide professional enrichment, but don’t qualify to offer CME credits.

Time away from work

Participating in such programs or joining society committees at national meetings can help you build your CV and enhance your national or regional reputation. And since this type of program could be more interactive than most, the benefits of online vs. in-person opportunities will vary substantially, depending on the leaders and the way the program is adapted to a remote setting. If you are employed and allotted time and funding for attending medical conferences, you may find professional events to be a much-needed break from your day to day work schedule and responsibilities, even if the conferences are remote. Relaxing a bit while you take in new information can be a relief.

While attending conferences from home on your computer certainly isn’t the same as attending in person, there are still advantages when it comes to getting a break from your demanding patient care routine.