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My First Congress: What to Know

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Caitlin ten Lohuis, ACNP-BC

Attending your first Critical Care Congress? Read on for some tips and tricks on navigating the meeting without becoming overwhelmed.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine's (SCCM) Critical Care Congress gives you a unique opportunity to expand not only your knowledge but also your critical care community so that, as a team, we can continue to provide the highest-quality care to our patients. But how do you navigate the event without becoming overwhelmed? Here are some tips based on my first SCCM Congress experience.

Share your Congress tips and lifehacks across social media using #SCCM2024!

It’s Sunday morning, day 1 of your first Critical Care Congress. You walk up to the registration kiosk and print your badge, ready to learn from experts in critical care. You grab some ribbons to affix to your badge and some of the free goodies available near the kiosks.
You start to plan your schedule on the SCCM Events App by favoriting sessions to make it easier to claim accredited continuing education for your future. While reviewing hundreds of sessions, you notice the Connections Central map. It’s filled with the newest and greatest technologies in all things critical care. Also woven throughout the exhibit booths are Research Snapshot Theaters, where more than 1200 abstracts and case reports will be presented throughout the event.
You sigh, wondering how you will take advantage of all Congress has to offer in just three days. The smell of coffee from the pop-up Max’s Cafe pulls you toward the opening session. You grab your free coffee and forget all your anxieties as you make your way to a front-row seat to see the latest from SCCM and to hear from the new SCCM president. (Check out the opening session from 2023!) When you find your seat, you are welcomed by a community that has the same passion as you—providing the highest-quality care to all critically ill and injured patients. All of a sudden, your critical care team grows from 40 people at your home unit to thousands of critical care colleagues from all around the world. You realize at that moment that you are in exactly the right place.
Congress is vital to our profession. We are all striving to provide the highest-quality care to our patients. The only way for us to continue to do that is through collaboration. Congress is the place where practitioners come together to share their experiences from their home units. By learning from each other’s research and experiences, we are able to improve the quality and standards of patient care. As clinicians, we have the privilege and responsibility to be a part of this great collaboration of ideas.
Here are a few tips and tricks to navigate your first Congress:
  1. Check out some popular events, luncheons, and precourses that require additional registration and may start before Congress. Make sure you don’t miss any that may interest you.
  2. Stay at a headquarters hotel. This is where a lot of the networking happens in the evenings. If you are unable to stay in one of these hotels, go there anyway and interact with your critical care colleagues and new connections.
  3. Download the SCCM Events App. The app allows you to create your own personalized Congress schedule, search for specific topics, and check in to each session, allowing you to get the most out of your Congress experience.
  4. Attend Break the Ice: First-Time Congress Attendee Gathering on January 21, 2024! Connect with other first-time attendees, receive tips on making the most of your Congress experience, enjoy light refreshments, and engage with leaders in the critical care field from various professions and backgrounds.
  5. Find out whether your specialty section or regional SCCM chapter is hosting a reception. SCCM chapters and sections provide a great opportunity to connect with colleagues in your region or those in your profession who went through similar training. If your specialty does not have a section, find one that applies to you. I chose nursing as my primary section and attend the virtual business meetings and advanced practice registered nurse subcommittee meetings to get more involved throughout the year.
  6. Walk through Connections Central. Talk to the people who make your ultrasound machines, cooling blankets, or hemodynamic monitoring devices. They are experts and can provide helpful tips to improve your practice. Stop by SCCM Central to get some free SCCM swag!
  7. Meet up with your home unit. Get together with your colleagues from home and discuss the ideas you are going to take home and put into practice.
  8. Take breaks. It’s a really busy three days, and it’s okay to skip an hour of sessions. Stop by the pop-up Max’s Cafe to recharge with some coffee and conversation. Recharging will help you be more present for the parts of Congress you don’t want to miss. All full Congress registrants receive access to Congress Digital, which includes recorded sessions from the in-person event and bonus sessions, so you don’t have to miss a thing.
  9. Engage with the speakers. If a session inspires you, the speaker would love to discuss the subject with you further.
  10. Attend the #SCCMSoMe Meet Up on January 20, 2024, and connect with SCCM social media influencers IRL (in real life) during this relaxed happy hour! Mix and mingle with critical care influencers and learn more about how social media can expand your network and enhance your professional development.
  11. Experience the city. There is plenty of time for sightseeing by yourself or, even better, with colleagues.
Attending Congress can seem overwhelming because of the sheer volume of critical care learning and connecting opportunities. With these tips and thousands of critical care colleagues ready to help you navigate your first Congress, you’re sure to have a great experience.
Join your colleagues at the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s 2024 Critical Care Congress in Pheonix, Arizona! At #SCCM2024, you will connect with colleagues, network and collaborate with other critical care experts, and explore new tools, technologies, and processes. Register now!

Caitlin ten Lohuis, ACNP-BC
Caitlin ten Lohuis, ACNP-BC
Caitlin ten Lohuis, ACNP-BC, is a critical care advanced practice provider at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She attended her first Critical Care Congress in 2018 as a critical care APP fellow.

Posted: 11/7/2023 | 0 comments

Knowledge Area: Professional Development and Education 

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