1. McCAULEY, MIRIAM Senior Editor

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THIS YEAR'S Nursing2005 Symposium in New Orleans was worth writing home about. For 3 days in March, more than 1,300 attendees from every state and five nations renewed their passion for nursing, bolstered their clinical skills, and made new friends along the way. Besides expanding their professional and personal horizons, the nurses got lots of encouragement to tell their stories.

Figure. David Salati... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. David Salati, Susan Simmons Holcomb, and Margaret Lash with Cheryl Mee after receiving their writing awards.
Figure. Janet Long t... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Janet Long traveled from New South Wales, Australia, to accept her award.
Figure. Raise your h... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Raise your hands if you consider humor a valid clinical tool.
Figure. Listening an... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Listening and learning at an education session.
Figure. Trying out t... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Trying out the bed for a better understanding of the patient experience.
Figure. Poster prese... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Poster presenters discussing their findings with a nurse.

Prizewinning tales

At the symposium kickoff, program director and Nursing2005 editor-in-chief Cheryl L. Mee welcomed attendees and highlighted the bill of fare. Then she announced the first-time-ever awards program for excellence in writing, honoring six nurse-authors for clinical articles and personal narratives appearing in the journal the previous year. You can learn about them and read their stories at (Laclede, maker of Biotene, and the Nursing2005 Foundation supported the awards.)


Reinforcing the importance of nurses touting their professional role, keynote speaker Bernice Buresh gave the audience tips on taking their message to the public and to policy makers. "Remind them," Buresh urged, "that nursing is consequential and complex, that you maintain a high level of scientific knowledge and skills, and that your care for patients is essential."


In the wide-ranging education sessions that followed, nurses learned the latest on clinical topics, technology, and professional development and got creative ideas for improving their practice. A crowd-tickling presentation by Kevin Smith, a nurse practitioner promoting humor as a clinical tool, had the nurses on their feet clapping. One compelling speaker describing how health care underserves older adults explored the delicate topic with warmth and wit. Another energized the crowd with team-building techniques and encouraged them to embrace change.


Between sessions, the nurses enjoyed complimentary refreshments and visited the exhibit booths. The number of recruiters vying for their attention reinforced what a precious commodity nurses are.


Of 31 posters displaying nursing innovations and research results, 3 won blue ribbons. The top-ranking clinical topic was nurses improving outcomes in patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia. Honors in the leadership category went to a poster detailing a quality discharge process. For education, a poster on aiding grieving parents after the death of a fetus or infant took the blue ribbon.


Meanwhile, nurses who might be considering professional writing or poster presentation flocked to a bonus lunchtime workshop, "Doing the 'Write' Thing for Your Career." Mee and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins journals clinical director Anne Woods demystified the writing process, made practical suggestions for getting published, and provided names of editors who can help them get started.


But all work and no play isn't befitting nurses in "N'Awlins." Ask those who attended an evening celebration midway through their stay. Wearing boas, beads, and Mardi Gras masks, they played games, won prizes, and danced the night away. Good food and good music provided a perfect setting for longtime and newfound friends.


New perspectives

How would you write the ending for 3 outstanding days of education, friendship, and fun? Invite hijack survivor Jackie Pflug to tell her story. Shot in the head by terrorists on an EgyptAir flight in 1985, Pflug spoke about her arduous recovery from speech, vision, and memory losses and other physical and emotional challenges. Describing how her life has changed, she shared her hard-earned perspective on what's important.


Scheduling every minute isn't. "Before the shooting, traffic jams used to upset me. Now," she said, "if I get lost while driving because of memory lapses, I just shrug off the delay and pull over to wait for help." Her parting words for busy nurses: "The little things don't matter. Focus on what you have rather than what you don't have."


See you next year?

The Nursing2006 Symposium to be held April 18 to April 21 at the Las Vegas Hilton promises to be another education-packed conference full of excitement and fun. See you there?