Convention Intentions: How to behave at EMS conferences
You’re preparing your rig for yet another shift when a colleague comes up and mentions to you and your partner that one of your fellow paramedics is being pulled off the streets for letting his license expire. You shake your head in a tsk-tsk manner and ask, "How can anyone be so stupid as to let that happen?" As everyone bobblehead nods in agreement, you excuse yourself, telling your partner the unit needs another backboard strap from the storeroom. Out of sight, you make an abrupt bee-line straight for the restroom. As soon as the stall door is latched, you frantically begin to scan the cards from your wallet, hoping against hope it’s not time for a new deck of certifications, accreditations and licenses authorizing you to practice EMS and drive the Woo-Woo vehicle really fast. Pulling out the first card, you breathe a sigh of relief. Your Starbucks card is still good for another three months! Your ADHD-induced rapture is short lived, as the subsequent EMS certificate cards reveal dates of expiration so close that you have to look at your watch. How did this happen? Where did the time go? And why doesn’t this stall have toilet paper? Maybe part of the reason we fall behind on our re-cert hours lies in the fact that so many of us get stuck in the same old unmotivated rut of taking the same mundane, predictable, uninspiring in-house continuing education (CE) classes from the same instructors year after year after year. I’m not saying this is a valid excuse to let your rights to practice prehospital care whither into the abyss, but there are better ways to motivate, inspire and recharge those batteries of yours while staying abreast of the latest in EMS education and technology. I’m speaking of attending conferences outside the norm. Local conferences are fine. State conferences are good. But national conferences open up an even bigger world of perspective, networking (schmoozing), CE topics and untraceable behavior. But before you get on that big plane that will inevitably lose your luggage (unless you carry it on), you may want to pre-prioritize what you hope to get out of the trip. Maybe you’re going just to rub elbows with those of high influence. I have no problem with that, but try to leave some room for socializing with friends and new acquaintances. Also, may I offer these following conference survival tips to enhance your experience? When registering, replace your name badge with a bigger name badge and add as many acronyms and certifications as you can. Make a few up that have no meaning whatsoever and see what kind of response you get. To make a lasting impression with a presenter, show up early and sit in the front row while plugging your laptop into the instructor’s power source. Don’t switch your cell phone or Blackberry to vibrate. Keep your work pager on full volume even though you’re 3,000 miles away from home. And tell the presenter you were so busy surfing the Internet while texting friends during the talk that you missed half of it and would like a copy of the entire talk on your USB memory stick. In case Gallagher is in your entertainment lineup, bring along hazmat gear while yelling at him, "Is this the best you got?" Collect business cards from everyone you meet. Scratch out their name, replace it with yours and put all those cards in the door-prize raffle bucket. While mingling among a sea of EMS providers, wear a T-shirt that says "Fire Rules" in big bold letters on your back. You’ll make many new friends this way. Admittedly, national conferences can be a little intimidating for the first timer, but it’s something everyone should experience at least once in their career, especially if it increases the likelihood of me being invited back to speak based on your glowing remarks on the evaluation forms. Until next time, be safe out there ... in somebody else’s district.
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