As I was thinking about packing for a recent convention — and those who know me know a lot went into wondering about how many pairs of shoes I could get into my suitcase — I started thinking about the healthcare conventions I go to. Specifically, I reflected on just how different the Q&A sessions are.

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists all put their pants on one leg at a time, but the ways we all ask questions during our conferences are different, for sure.

With pharmacists, while the days are filled with pharmacology, the nights are filled with cocktail-pharmaco-kinetics. Boy, can these guys party!

I mean, who else but a pharmacist knows better about the effects on biological systems and just how far you can push it at night and still make a 6:30 a.m. session? One thing the pharmacists and nurses have in common is they are the only ones I know who will go into a bar and order a “Brompton’s cocktail” (at least those of us who are old enough to remember this compound) — just to see the confused look on the bartender’s face. Those crazy kids! 

All kidding aside, there’s a lot of information exchange at the pharmacists’ conferences, plus really great sessions. But it’s pretty much what you would expect during Q&A: “What’s the mechanisms of action?” “What’s happening on the regulatory side?” and so on.

The doctors’ conferences? Well, not so much on the partying, but lots of networking. Tons of sessions from before the sun comes up to long after it’s gone down. Clinical topics to management practices. As for the Q&A it is, well,  interesting.

Not so much, “What can I learn from you?” but, “Let me tell you how smart I am and what you can learn from me.” Maybe that’s because they’re afraid a lawyer will be in the room and “get them” because they’ve admitted they didn’t know something?  Yet who could blame them, ever since lawyers and HMOs took over healthcare! (Sorry, I’ll step down off that soap box for now.)

Now for the nurses’ conferences … It used to be when the word got out that a nurse convention was coming to town, there was palpable excitement. But then the guys started realizing the average age of a nurse today is close to 50, so the excitement kind of dropped proportionately! I mean, we’re still hot. Just for some, it’s coming in flashes!

The nurses, bless them. This past summer at the NADONA conference, I was moved so many times when a nurse would get up during the Q&A of a session and just admit that she was struggling with something. They were not afraid to be vulnerable, not afraid to admit their weaknesses.

And it was a beautiful thing to behold when the “family” of fellow nurses would just embrace that person and not only offer solutions, but add, “Here’s my phone number — call me anytime,” or, “Take my email and I’ll send you that policy,” or, “Come to my facility for a few days and I’ll walk you through it. You can stay with me.” 

I love being a nurse, and always have. But I have to say at that conference, when the beauty and fellowship and pure vulnerability of my brothers and sisters hit me, I’ve never felt so proud to be a nurse!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC — a real life long-term care nurse who is also the director of clinical affairs for the American Medical Directors Association. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet.