How the AARC Congress Can Boost Your Career

AARC Congress 2019 will take place Nov. 9-12 in New Orleans and RTs all across the country are reviewing the Program now and making plans to attend.

How will attendance at this premier meeting of the year in the respiratory care profession help to boost their careers? We talked to this year’s Program Committee Chair Sarah M. Varekojis, PhD, RRT, FAARC, and last year’s Chair Thomas Lamphere BS, RRT-ACCS, RPFT, FAARC, to find out.

Go To AARC Congress 2019
Learn from the experts

Varekojis says Congress attendance gives therapists the opportunity to learn from the experts about topics that are either new to them or they need to know more about, and they can also find out how others are handling challenges they are facing on the job.

“Participating in a conference allows you to more actively engage with both the content and the other attendees through question and answer periods during sessions and in continued conversations in the hallway throughout the meeting,” she said. “Some of the true value of attending a conference comes after the meeting, when you return to your facility and are able to share your newly acquired knowledge and resources with your team to facilitate improvements in how you function.”

The extra-added attractions at the meeting ensure attendees go home with what they came for too. First and foremost are the vendors who support the meeting, because they make you aware of new tools and new solutions for issues and challenges you may be facing.

“Other events allow us to celebrate ourselves, our profession, and our accomplishments,” Varekojis said. “And still others help us stay up to date on issues facing our profession, what the organizations representing us are doing on our behalf, and how we can get involved to help.”

The networking aspects of the Congress offer a big career boost too. Indeed, Varekojis says she’d heard many people say being in the same room as other professionals who are just as passionate about the content of the meeting as they are is the most beneficial aspect of conference attendance.

“Networking at a conference is an unparalleled opportunity to foster your professional development — you are making an investment in yourself and in your career,” she said.

Thousands of attendees

Lamphere wholeheartedly agrees with that last statement, noting that an RT’s career can have many unforeseen changes that occur for many different reasons.

“Some of these may be intentional while others are not,” he said. “During these times, it’s vitally important to have a network of individuals who work in the profession.”

With thousands of attendees from across the country and around the world, the AARC Congress provides that network.

“It is an opportunity like no other to meet people both from your local region and from places you have never lived or visited,” Lamphere said. “You never know where life will take you and knowing others can be a huge advantage during periods of change.”

He also believes Congress attendance improves your chances when new job opportunities arise.

“As a former RT department manager myself, I know when hiring an employee for a staff or supervisory position an applicant’s knowledge of currently used equipment and treatment strategies played a pivotal role in the decision to hire that individual or not,” he said. “The AARC Congress is a ’one stop shop’ for RTs to update themselves with content experts in all aspects of our profession.”

Tips on making the most of the meeting

Going to the Congress this year? Varejokis and Lamphere share their top pieces of advice for making the most of the meeting.

Sarah Varejokis —

  • Review the program in advance to maximize your time and to match your interests and your facility’s interests with the schedule — you can use the AARC Mobile app to get organized! If you are attending with colleagues, include them in your planning so you can each attend different sessions to maximize your collective learning opportunities. As you are planning, choose sessions that will benefit you and your organization so you can take lessons learned back to your team.
  • Bring business cards to pass out to people you introduce yourself to, ask others for their card, and make a note on the back regarding what you want to follow up with the person about when you return from the conference. Many speakers and vendors are more than willing to continue to engage with you after the meeting and having their contact information eliminates one of the barriers to reaching out.
  • Come prepared to take notes at every session you attend. There will be a take-away from each session, and you need to have a way to keep track of all of the great information you will be gathering so you can implement when you return home.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask anyone anything — everyone is attending the conference for the same reasons and there are experts and experienced clinicians, researchers, and teachers everywhere. If you just ask, someone will know someone who can help you with your concern or problem.

Tom Lamphere —

  • Review the lecture schedule ahead of time and make sure you mark down the lectures you want to be sure you don’t miss.
  • Visit the vendor exhibit area. I believe this is a vital part of continuing your education, as there are always new products, and the companies that make them are eager to show them to you and explain how they work.
  • Take advantage of all networking opportunities like the Welcome Party and other events. It’s a chance not only to catch up with old friends but to meet new ones.
  • Plan some time to visit the area. New Orleans offers a lot to see and do — great food, great music, sightseeing, and more are within a short distance of your hotel.