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Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Health Care Journalists Conference for the first time. The conference was held in Chicago and appeared to be well attended; exact registration figures were not made available. Participants appeared to be healthcare reporters from newspapers and magazines. There was not a participant roster in the registration materials so I cannot confirm that impression.
The sessions consisted mainly of panel presentations on a variety of healthcare topics with a great deal of focus on healthcare reform and its effect on a variety of audiences, such as local and state governments and hospitals and other healthcare facilities. There also were sessions on the women's health research agenda, preparing for the coming tsunami in aging, reading medical studies, what was learned from the H1N1 flu season, investigating nursing homes, spotting conflicts of interest, and others.
After the formal presentations by panelists, the audience was encouraged to ask questions, and most of my learning occurred during this part. I was impressed by the questioners' wealth of knowledge about the healthcare system and the incisive questions that were asked. Some of these reporters had written insightful commentaries on topics such as medical errors and patient safety. One or two were identified as Pulitzer Prize recipients.
I felt in honorable company and only lament that there were not more nurses present-both as panelists and as participants. It was refreshing to experience "the other side" of health care, but I believe nurses have so much to offer on the basis of our education and experience in the nursing profession. We should be leading the way in presenting healthcare topics to reporters and other folks in the print media.
I also enjoyed visiting with the exhibitors including some healthcare publishers, media resources, and journalism schools. I will be using some of what I learned in my journal editor practice and look forward to attending the conference again next year.
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