Nursing studies

How to organise a successful conference

Don’t be afraid to ask nursing leaders to speak at your conference, says RCN student information officer Dann Gooding.
organise conference

Dont be afraid to ask nursing leaders to speak at your conference, says RCN student information officer Dann Gooding

Most students and nurses will attend conferences to share information and network with colleagues. But far fewer will tackle arranging and presenting a conference for their peers.

As a student information officer (SIO) at the RCN, I co-presented a conference and learned some of the pitfalls as well as the sense of achievement they can bring. SIOs are a network of RCN student members who work closely with the RCN to support and share information with their fellow students. A conference seemed a good way to support our work.

It took eight weeks of careful planning to arrange the event and develop a programme of aspirational and thoughtful speakers.

First, it

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Don’t be afraid to ask nursing leaders to speak at your conference, says RCN student information officer Dann Gooding

organise conference
Arranging a conference brings pitfalls and a sense of achievement. Picture: iStock

Most students and nurses will attend conferences to share information and network with colleagues. But far fewer will tackle arranging and presenting a conference for their peers.

As a student information officer (SIO) at the RCN, I co-presented a conference and learned some of the pitfalls as well as the sense of achievement they can bring. SIOs are a network of RCN student members who work closely with the RCN to support and share information with their fellow students. A conference seemed a good way to support our work.

It took eight weeks of careful planning to arrange the event and develop a programme of aspirational and thoughtful speakers.

First, it is important to choose a theme that inspires passion. For our conference for the London region, we wanted to show the large variety of nursing roles and the many advanced roles of nursing that exist. The idea came from the This is modern nursing film produced by the RCN, which demonstrates some of the different and advanced roles that nurses can take.

Source of funding

I felt it was important for nursing students to realise that the stereotype of starched white uniforms and being doctors’ handmaidens is a thing of the past. With the various challenges facing our NHS, now is the time for nurses to realise that they are autonomous practitioners in their own right.

Getting our local RCN region involved provided an important source of funding, and is an option that all students planning a similar event should consider. The conference was held at the RCN headquarters in London and we were given useful advice and support by RCN staff.

When it comes to planning the agenda, students shouldn’t be afraid to ask well-known figures to speak at and attend their conference. We contacted leading nurses and found that most did their best to try to help students out.

Among our speakers were Alison Leary, chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, Jose Hernandez-Padilla, lecturer in mandatory skills training and cardiopulmonary resuscitation at Middlesex University London, and Jim Blair, a consultant nurse for intellectual disabilities at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.

Inspired and encouraged

Our speakers generously shared their own experiences, and how they learnt from adversity and difficult events in their careers. They inspired and encouraged the audience with advice on how to get the most out of their future careers.

Live streaming of the event on Facebook helped us reach many more people than the 65 who attended. There were more than 700 views through the social media site.

Most of the feedback we received was really positive. Students enjoyed the talks and spoke about how they wanted to become more involved with learning disability nursing and hospice care. It was also fantastic to see so many students networking with others from different universities and find out about the SIO program.

After organising such an event, take time to reflect. Arranging such a conference is a great achievement. Being a student nurse can be tough, so always celebrate your success and think of it with pride.


Dann Gooding is a second-year children's nursing student at London South Bank University, and an RCN student information officer

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