On the Road Again: Behavioral Health Conferences from Coast to Coast

New Opportunities To Share & Learn

This time of year many people in our industry travel all over the country to attend conferences. For most, it’s a time to renew relationships with former colleagues, create new connections, learn new ideas and sometimes, reaffirm the things we are already doing through our work. I recently hit the road to participate at this year’s NatCon. While attending, I ran into a colleague who asked me if I ever get bored presenting or attending these conferences. My response was that I try to approach every conference with a plan and try not to get caught up in any of the glitz and glamour, rather focus on the important things. I have been fortunate to both present at and attend a number of conferences over the past few years. I think I have learned a few things, both in presenting and participating in workshops.

For example, last year I attended the College of Behavioral Health Leadership Conference, where I was inspired by Judith Hibbard, an influential Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), who discussed the impact of health literacy and activation. Her findings continue to resonate with me. Dr. Hibbard is the lead author of the Patient Activation Measure (PAM). The PAM measures an individual’s knowledge and skills for self-management and is being used around the world by researchers and practitioners. Her presentation highlighted the benefits of PAM, especially when it comes to controlling costs and achieving healthcare quality improvements, something she believes requires full participation of activated and informed consumers and patients alike. Dr. Hibbard describes a process for conceptualizing and operationalizing what it means to be “activated” and delineates the process we use to develop a measure for assessing activation and the psychometric properties of that measure. This discussion is an important one and something I try to keep in mind when I’m presenting on data and person-centered planning.

For those attending conferences, my advice is to remember you are going to get out what you put in. If you go just to meet colleagues and friends, then for the most part that is what you will get out of the experience, and there is nothing wrong with spending your time in that way. If, however you want to get more out of your time away from the office, planning is a prerequisite, and active participation is a requirement. I like to attend conferences informed. I will read up about the theme of the conference and spend time learning about the topics of the sessions I plan to attend. Participation is key. Be a participant, not just an attendee. If you are worried you will miss the opportunity to meet and talk to colleagues, then skip the entertainment-oriented keynotes and use the time to have some one-on-one meetings. Finally, talk to the vendors and conference supporters. Many of these folks are happy to share industry information beyond just the product they are selling or exhibiting. Make your next conference a complete experience and you will come home refreshed, renewed, and satisfied. Listen, learn, and participate and the benefits will follow. I hope to see you on the road or on one of our webinars sometime soon.