Why Hold an Annual Supportive Care Conference?

Regular readers of this blog might already know about the Annual OSF Supportive Care Conference that my team and I have been conducting for OSF caregivers and special invited guests for a number of years now. Those of us who are part of OSF are probably very familiar with this event, but for those who aren’t, you may be asking what a Supportive Care Conference is, and why our team chose to develop and hold one every year.

A Little History & Background

Dr. Sawicki Speaking at Supportive Care ConferenceThe first OSF Supportive Care Conference was held in May 2007. We were just beginning to develop the supportive care programs here at OSF, which we had adopted in the fall of 2006.

The intention of the conference was to both provide education to our doctors and caregiver staffs from all over the OSF system about what our supportive and palliative care teams were doing and the current state of supportive care at large in health care, with a particular focus on caring for the frail, the elderly, and the dying.

Nationally recognized speakers came to present and we were so pleased by the response that we decided to do it again the next year. The goal remained to educate all of our caregivers about this new area of medicine and health care where very little was available in the way of formal training.

Supportive Care is a Team Effort

Supportive care, at its core, is truly a team effort and, as time went by, we recognized that working as a team meant learning as a team so we expanded our audience to include anyone interested in supportive care at OSF.

Something happened that we didn’t expect, but were glad for: teams who had only interacted by phone in the past began to meet each other and started sharing their stories, challenges, obstacles and successes.

The Value of a Local Supportive Care Conference

There are many National Conferences each year related to supportive and palliative care including the AAHPM Annual Assembly, the CAPC Annual Meeting, the NHPCO Annual Meeting, the Supportive Care Coalition Congress and others. There is a great value in traveling to national meetings and to networking with others from other health care systems.

2011 OSF Supportive Care ConferenceIf I am able to attend one of these, I always come back recharged, re-energized, and full of great ideas, new knowledge, and new friends. No one can get to every meeting, whether because of time constraints, budget constraints, or other factors. For those reasons, local and regional meetings have a high value. They are less expensive and you can usually come and go during the conference if you need to.

The goals are similar to those at national conferences – to learn, engage, recharge, and network. Those who are involved in supportive care are very giving people, and the work is very taxing emotionally. A key principle of supportive care is self-care, including creating a time to learn.

At OSF, we find that offering our annual conference is one way we can support both those directly involved in supportive care on a regular basis, and those who are just interested in the topic. Those who attend the conference have always had positive things to say about it, and in at least one case that I know of, attendance indirectly led to a career-path change!

Set Up & Challenges

Holding a conference like this is a lot of work. We have had some missteps along the way, but also plenty of successes. Like those attending, we are learning as we go. For systems and hospitals who are interested in holding or developing a conference like this, I would say “go for it.” You will not regret it, and the rewards will be great. In a future post, I’ll share some tips and tricks for starting up a supportive care conference in your facility or system.

Have you been to a supportive care conference, either locally or nationally? Share your experiences and thoughts with us in the comments below!

1 Comment

  • Kim Madden says:

    I am a nurse care coordinator for Unity Point Peoria. It is my understanding that a few of our other coordinators have gone to a class of sorts at OSF in Peoria to learn more about Advance Care Planning and to be able to assist patients in filling out these forms. Do you have any information on these types of classes or who I may contact?

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