While the Delta variant of COVID-19 has curtailed the AARC’s plans for an in-person Congress in Phoenix this November, the Association is marching forward with plans for a virtual meeting similar to the meeting that took place last year.
That highly successful event received kudos from attendees, who found that the parts of the traditional Congress that matter most – the continuing education it provides – can be delivered in the virtual format.
That means attendees will take part in live sessions with the chance to ask questions of the presenters and interact with faculty. They will also explore a virtual exhibit hall that allows them to see all the latest that technology has to offer.
Three veteran AARC Congress-goers explain why this annual meeting is the best place for respiratory therapists in terms of professional advancement — and how you can make the most of the meeting if this is your first time attending.
How often do you attend the AARC Congress, and what are your chief reasons for going as often as you can?
Keith Siegel: I have attended the AARC Congress every year since 2004 and several times before that. There are so many reasons why I attend that it is difficult to pick any one as my chief reason. However, I would say that my top three reasons are the world-class evidence-based lectures, the exhibit hall that showcases all of the latest technology available, and the time I get to spend networking with passionate professionals from all over the country.
Christy Kane: For the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of attending the AARC Congress each year. There are numerous benefits of attending, including networking, seeing new technologies in the vendor hall, hearing from leading international experts, and visiting OPEN FORUM sessions, which stimulates ideas for my research agenda.
Dana Evans: I have attended Congress every year since 2012 and have no plans to stop going every year. AARC Congress provides me with plenty of opportunities to grow both as a clinician and a leader by attending the world-class education sessions, learning about new technologies and opportunities for my team in the exhibit hall, and growing my network of colleagues across the nation.
How do you believe AARC Congress attendance can boost the career of a respiratory therapist, and how do you believe it has boosted your own career over the years?
Keith Siegel: There is no question that attending my first Congress in 1994 changed the entire trajectory of my career. I was so blown away by all I saw at Congress, with the high-quality educational sessions and the passion and professionalism that I witnessed from the attendees and AARC leadership, that I knew I wanted to get more actively involved in the AARC. When I returned home from Congress, I got involved with my state affiliate, eventually becoming president of the Maine Society for Respiratory Care. From there, I was elected to the AARC House of Delegates (HOD), which led to me being elected speaker of the HOD. I am now honored to be serving on the AARC Board of Directors.
During my time in the House of Delegates, I was also inspired to advance my education. I entered the HOD with an associate’s degree and left with a master’s degree, which allowed me to start my own consulting company. None of this would have happened had I not attended that first AARC Congress more than 25 years ago.
Christy Kane: Attending the AARC International Congress has been vital to my personal and professional development. Networking with colleagues as well as developing new knowledge and skills has been pivotal in my development. As a faculty member, presenting several posters helped me on my tenure journey.
Dana Evans: Attending Congress has boosted my career by creating opportunities for me to connect and learn from people from around the nation. If I have a question or if I am looking for someone to collaborate with, I am able to do that because of the connections I have made through the AARC and attending Congress.
What advice do you have for first-time Congress-goers about how Congress attendance can help them build their careers in respiratory care?
Keith Siegel: My advice would be to take advantage of all that AARC Congress has to offer. Attend as many lectures as you can. Learn what is new and bring that knowledge back home to your employer.
Christy Kane: In addition to gaining information in your practice area, I recommend you branch out to learn about other areas of practice. If you work with adults, go to one or two pediatric talks. If you work ICU, go to a few diagnostic/PFT lectures. You never know what might spark an interest. Finally, be sure to attend some of the Pro/Con presentations. They help me to think critically and are my favorite presentations.
Dana Evans: Attending Congress for the first time can be overwhelming. I suggest looking at the schedule and planning your day to ensure you get the most out of your time. I always make sure to attend specialty section meetings. This is a great opportunity to meet people who have similar interests.
Keith Siegel, MBA, RRT, CPFT, FAARC, is president/owner of Siegel Respiratory Consulting, Inc. in Union, ME. Christy Kane, PhD, RRT, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS, AE-C, is an RT faculty member at Bellarmine College in Louisville, KY. Dana Evans, MHA, RRT, RRT-NPS, is director of respiratory care at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in Chicago, IL.