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This past September, Nursing Management Congress: The Conference for Excellence in Nursing Leadership(R), which was supposed to take place in Las Vegas, instead went virtual. As most of us have gotten used to attending meetings in a virtual space, it didn't take long for the same excitement and anticipation of our regular conference to take hold of the attendees who signed onto their computers. The same array of evidence-based educational sessions full of comprehensive, results-oriented patient care approaches were presented over 4 days, and attendees didn't have to wait until they returned home to implement these changes at their workplaces.

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Four days of intensive learning

Tuesday's opening session, "The Courage to Lead," was an engaging presentation by conference chairperson Pamela Hunt, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, nurse executive advisor and adjunct faculty at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, Ind. Pam encouraged attendees to face their fears and lead with courage. "Starting off with Ms. Hunt's presentation makes me so very excited for the rest of the week," one attendee said. "This was a great way to kick off the conference!" noted another. "I really needed to hear this. I took away some great tips such as self-care, having the courage to lead, and creating a gratitude journal. Thank you, Pam!"


The rest of the day was filled with a product theater and nine breakout sessions covering such diverse topics as digital health in the time of COVID-19, guiding poor performers, budget and staffing best practices, becoming a transformational leader, and finding joy at work. During breaks in between sessions, attendees could visit virtual exhibitor booths and view poster presentations.


We certainly missed presenting the annual Richard Hader Visionary Leader award in person this year, which was awarded to Ferlie Villacorte, MPH, MSN, RN, CNS, clinical nursing director of ambulatory care services at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif. You can read more about Ferlie's accomplishments in the January 2021 issue of Nursing Management. Congratulations Ferlie!


One valuable perk of a virtual conference is the ability to get instant feedback and witness networking in real time. A chat room appeared on the screen during each session, and it was filled with attendees commenting about the presentation, sharing their experiences, and meeting colleagues from around the country. "The interaction in the chat box during the presentation[s] was an added bonus," noted one attendee.


Wednesday morning's general session was led by Karen Drenkard, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, associate dean of clinical practice and community engagement at George Washington University School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. She discussed the power of engaging patients in their care and the role of leadership in creating a culture of engaged patients. The day continued with six more breakout sessions on turning career setbacks into comebacks, closing the knowledge complexity gap, reducing documentation burden, and more. To wrap up this busy day, Rosanne Raso, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Nursing Management editor-in-chief and vice president and CNO at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, presented "Leadership in a Pandemic," sharing her experiences and lessons learned while working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.


Thursday featured Just Health Collective's founder and CEO, Duane Elliott Reynolds, MHA, who presented a powerful session on "The Health Equity Imperative: Best Practice Strategies for Improving Care in Vulnerable Patient Populations." Duane reviewed the well-documented disparities that exist in the US health system and provided strategies that attendees could use to improve health inequities in their organizations and communities. Eight breakout sessions followed, with stabilizing teams, using informatics, and avoiding malpractice just a few of the topics covered.


The last day of the conference featured a powerful, emotional session on changing the culture surrounding mental illness by John T. Broderick, Jr., senior director of external affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's R.E.A.C.T. Mental Health Awareness Campaign and former New Hampshire Chief Justice. "John Broderick has touched my heart this morning," said one attendee. Another shared, "What a powerful presentation. With the number of nurses in our profession, we CAN make a change if we can come together to help those suffering with mental illness." Three breakout sessions followed, and a final general session by conference favorite Rhonda Lawes, PhD(c), RN, CNE, assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, examined how best to make effective decisions. It was a great way to end 4 days of intensive learning and networking. Attendees logged off with a renewed sense of what it means to be a nurse leader and how they can improve not only their work and personal lives, but the lives of their employees and patients as well.


Another virtual perk

New to this year's virtual Congress, all of the sessions are now archived online for 90 days, until January 10, 2021. If attendees missed anything or want to rewatch a session, they can!


Next year's Congress dates haven't been set yet, so be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on registration, continuing-education information, and program details.