This series examines how COVID changed the industry and how organizations have adapted and changed to successfully accomplish their work and progress. This month’s Life Amid COVID blog post discusses how the entire industry adjusted the important local, state, and national conferences to support the memberships and be able to provide the valuable information received in those. Many of us are getting ready to participate in an in-person NAMSS conference in Nashville in just a couple of weeks. For many, this will be the first in-person conference we’ve been to in a couple of years, and I know I am looking forward to meeting people I’ve talked to over Zoom, Teams or other platforms for the first time face-to-face. For those who are going, we look forward to seeing you. For those who are attending virtually, I know you will receive the important information these conferences provide, and we hope to meet face-to-face next time.
Thank you to Raymechia Jackson, Jackie Jones and Marcia Dean for providing this insight into how life during COVID continues to evolve.
COVID first presented itself in the U.S. in a man from Washington State in January 2020. Since that day our world and the way we function has been forever changed and turned upside down. The world has had to take on many medical precautions, from wearing masks in public, staying six feet apart while in public, isolating at home, and finally getting vaccinated which included obtaining booster shots to keep the new variants of the virus under control. The pandemic has not only changed our private lives, but how we have now adjusted to the ever-changing requirements within our daily work routines.
Now two years later, we have examined life with COVID and changes that were made with continuing the vital role in which the Medical Staff Professionals play in the healthcare organizations.
Probably one of the most impactful areas for all Medical Staff Professionals was the inability to network in-person at local, state, and national educational conferences. Educational conferences provide vital updates to information as well as continuing educational requirements for maintaining national certifications. In-person networking with other Medical Staff Professionals became a thing of the past when conferences went virtual or were canceled for a period of time.
To get a better understanding of how one organization revamped their annual education forum to virtual sessions during the pandemic, we reached out to Marcia Dean, CPMSM, System Director Medical Staff Services at Adventist Health. Marcia is the Forum Chair & President-elect for California Association Medical Staff Services (CAMSS). We asked her about how her state was able to make that transition.
There were many factors the CAMSS board looked at and considered for the conference. Of upmost importance was protecting the health and safety of our members. During the first year, there was no question the conference would need to be virtual or canceled. The hotel was closed at the time. For the 2022 conference, we had to make the decisions well ahead of the actual event. At the time of the decision, the hotel was closed. In addition, we needed to consider how they would be able to accommodate a distancing requirement and cleaning requirements to protect our members.
We also had to consider the likelihood that our members would or would not be allowed to travel by their employers. For example, my employer, Adventist Health System, took away travel budgets for 2022 and only allows work related travel which are pre-approved by Sr. VP at the time. I know many were in similar situations. We also knew that the reduced travel budgets and education budgets would occur because of the hospital losses related to COVID with extra labor expenses for Contract Nursing and more.
The board looked at various vendors, but at the time, NAMSS had selected a vendor for their conference, so CAMSS opted to use the same vendor, making it easier for our teams.
The vendors for virtual conferences have really come into their own over the last couple of years as most have turned to these. The platform we use is easy and very intuitive, which is important when selecting a vendor. The solution automatically tracks the user attendance at the various programs including time in and out and helps us to run reports on the attendees to understand which sessions were attended and how long attendees participated. The solution uses Zoom as its base for the actual sessions and programs, which most attendees have used (thank you, COVID-19).
The vendors offered online training videos for the organizers/forum committee as well as walked us through how to setup our Conference on the platform. They helped us load the agendas, load the speakers, registrants, setup permissions/access and much more.
Finally, the vendor provided us with real time support, for a fee, which was incredibly valuable. For example, our first speaker had an internet issue. We contacted the vendor, who called the speaker and helped her one-on-one to solve the issue. Even when they weren’t on the real time support option the vendor responding within 15-30 minutes to issues and escalated as appropriate.
The presenters had the option of pre-recording their session or presenting live. The savvy presenters mostly wanted to pre-record and then attend the program to answer questions in the chat. We also had presenters who did everything live. Both worked out well.
This year was the second year for our virtual-only forum using the vendor, Pathable. It was a great turnout with 240 attendees. Fantastic!
Overall, the response was extremely positive. Once the forum closed at the end of June, we allowed additional time for members to review the recorded sessions and get CEUs. A very big satisfier. Comments I received, as the Forum Chair, were all positive. Not one negative comment. We provided 31 programs and 31 NAMSS CEU’s with many of our members watching all of the programs. We had over 200 people watch our Legal update LIVE and the final Keynote speaker LIVE on the last day (4th day). All incredibly impressive.
Networking is very important and why we will be doing our next forum at Disney, In-Person. We strongly encouraged our members to CHAT throughout the program by including points in the Virtual Game-i-facation, which was an awesome part of the Pathable platform. Our members really loved it!
Getting the newest and latest information from vendors is also important, so we worked in quite a bit of “Visit the Sponsors and Vendors at the Virtual Exhibit” time.
The advantages we found for the virtual was that it was cheaper to put on which allowed for a reduced fee to the attendees. This was important for attendees who had budgets cuts for travel and education. We can offer more sessions for the program and allows for the attendees to watch LIVE or over a period of time. The fun games can also make it an advantage to be engaging. We had a lot of fun with the raffles!
In-Person provides the connection to create relationships we want and need with each other, our vendors and our speakers. Something that just is not the same through a virtual conference. What we have heard from our members and the board, is that we all want to be in-person, when it is possible. We are certain we will have a large turnout next year!