The Highlight of Every Year: The ARN Conference
Stephanie Vaughn, PhD RN CRRN FAHA
REACH—Renew, Explore, Advance, Connect, Hope. What an appropriate acronym for the new and improved ARN Annual Educational Conference!
As I embark on my year as ARN president, I want to note the impact that attending ARN Annual Educational Conferences has had on my professional career as a rehabilitation nurse. Since joining ARN, the conference has been a special event on my annual calendar. I attended my first conference in Nashville, TN, in 1989 with several of my Central Ohio Chapter colleagues. I had the opportunity to meet and network with other rehab nurses, and I was excited about the number of educational offerings on topics that were pertinent to my CNS practice. Many of the presenters and ARN leaders I met at that conference have since become my mentors, colleagues, and lifelong friends. Renewing relationships and our passion for the profession is one of the great joys of ARN membership and conference attendance.
The conferences are always packed with education, professional activities, and vendors to explore that provide us with new solutions to the challenges in our practice. REACH 2016 was no exception. The opening keynote address presented by some of ARN’s best and brightest was dynamic, entertaining, and reflective. As an early conference attendee back in the day, I was in awe of the ARN leadership who capably led the business meetings and tirelessly hosted events throughout the conference week, including SIG meetings, RNJ consultations, and first-timer assistance with research ideas and manuscripts. All of that was in addition to presenting education in the preconference or regular conference sessions.
That first conference in Nashville was the beginning of my fall tradition; I have attended all but two ARN Annual Educational Conferences since then. Each conference has been memorable in its own way; a few that stand out are the last time we were in Philadelphia, right after September 11, 2001; and the celebratory conferences held at Disney World in 1994 and Disneyland in 2014. The Rehabilitation Nursing Foundation (RNF) functions, held in conjunction with the conferences, have advanced nursing scholarships and informed our practice, but also have been great fun. I am sure many remember the “predawn” RNF walks in which we donned costumes for the event, the basket auctions that were as unique as the chapters that donated them, and our RNF bowling event in Reno, NV, during which our delegation from Japan enjoyed the sport for the first time. The RNF dinners have boasted current research findings and the translation of those findings into practice, such as the important work on fall-injury reduction and the implications for nurse staffing presented by Drs. Patricia A. Quigley and Kathleen Stevens at REACH 2016.
Being able to connect with colleagues and other rehab nurses from across the United States and abroad is one of the many advantages of attending ARN’s conferences. The information presented for some may be a review that validates practice; for others, it provides new ideas from which to generate change upon returning to their organizations and practice settings. The topics are always timely and abundant, so each attendee can pick and choose according to his or her professional needs. This year was no exception. REACH speakers shared advances in the management of multiple sclerosis, pediatric stroke, self-care in persons with chronic heart failure, patient- and family-centered care, medication safety, and current science in acute adult stroke care. The speakers also provided tools for rehabilitation nurses regarding leadership, decision making, and so much more.
Over the years, many of the keynote speakers have made us think, helped us reflect, validated our choice of specialty, and given us hope for a brighter future for rehab nursing.
Being involved in ARN has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my 40-year career as a rehabilitation nurse; attending the conference each year has enhanced that experience several fold. It is on my calendar for next year, and I encourage you to put it on yours so we can continue to Renew, Explore, Advance, Connect, and Hope together as we care for and support persons with disability and chronic illness in our rehabilitation community.