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My First Congress: What to Know

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Caitlin Cundiff, ACNP-BC

Caitlin Cundiff, ACNP-BC, presented her Critical Care Congress abstract case report during a Research Snapshot Theater at the 49th Critical Care Congress. She shares her tips for attending Congress.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine's (SCCM) Critical Care Congress gives you a unique opportunity to not only expand your knowledge, but also your critical care community, so that as a team we can continue to provide the highest-quality care to our patients. But how do you navigate the meeting without becoming overwhelmed? Here are some tips based on my first SCCM Congress experience.

It’s Sunday morning, day one of your first Critical Care Congress. You walk up to the registration desk and grab your badge, ready to learn all about critical care. 

The registration concierge welcomes you and hands you your Congress packet goodies, including the Congress Program and Exhibition Guide. Or maybe you downloaded the SCCM Events App and are scrolling the schedule on your phone.

As you review the hundreds of sessions offered, you also notice the Exhibit Hall map. It’s filled with the newest and greatest technologies in all things critical care. Also, woven throughout the exhibit booths are Research Snapshot Theaters. This is where more than 1,600 abstracts and case reports will be presented throughout the meeting.

You sigh, wondering how you will take advantage of all Congress has to offer in just four days.

Top Reasons to Attend Critical Care CongressYou look at your watch and realize it’s time for the Opening Session. You forget all your anxieties and rush to get a front-row seat for the SCCM president’s welcome message.(Check out this inspiring footage of Heatherlee Bailey from last year!) When you find your seat, you are welcomed by a community that has the same passion as you: providing the highest-quality care to all critically ill patients. All of a sudden, your critical care team grows from 40 people at your home unit to more than 6,000 critical care colleagues from all around the world. You realize at that moment that you are in exactly the right place.

Congress is vital to our profession. We are all striving to provide the highest-quality care to our patients. The only way for us to continue to do that is through collaboration. Congress is the place where providers come together to share their experiences from their home units. By learning from each other’s research and experiences, we are able to improve the quality and standards of patient care. As providers, we have the privilege and responsibility to be a part of this great collaboration of ideas.

Here are a few tips and tricks to navigate your first Congress:

  1. Check out events that require separate registration. Some popular events, luncheons, and workshops require pre-conference registration and may start before Congress. Make sure you don’t miss any that interest you.
  2. Stay at the headquarters hotel. This is where a lot of the networking happens in the evenings. If you are unable to stay there, go there anyway and interact with your critical care colleagues.
  3. Download the SCCM Events App. The app allows you to create your own personalized Congress schedule, search for specific topics, and check in to each session. This will allow you to get the most out of your Congress experience.
  4. Attend your regional SCCM chapter meetings. SCCM chapters provide a great opportunity to connect with colleagues in your region. They all have meetings at Congress, so it’s a great first step to get involved.
  5. Attend your specialty section meeting. Specialty sections are great way to connect with people who went through similar training and share your profession. If your specialty does not have a section, find one that applies to you. I have chosen nursing as my primary section and attend the business meeting and the advanced practice registered nurse subcommittee meetings to get more involved.
  6. Walk through the Exhibit Hall. Talk to the people who make your ultrasounds, cooling blankets, and flow track machines. They are experts and can provide helpful tips to improve your practice.
  7. Meet up with your home unit. Get together with your colleagues from home and discuss the ideas you are going to take home and practice.
  8. Take breaks. It’s a really busy three days. It’s okay to skip an hour of sessions. Recharging will help you be more present for the parts of Congress you don’t want to miss. All full Congress registrants receive Congress On Demand, a recording of all the Congress sessions, so you don’t have to miss a thing.
  9. Speak to the speakers. If a session inspires you, the speaker would love to discuss the subject with you further.
  10. Follow the speakers you liked on Twitter. Twitter is a great way to continue the conversation, stay connected, and share ideas after Congress is over.
  11. Experience the city. There is plenty of time for sightseeing by yourself, or even better, with colleagues.

Attending Congress can seem overwhelming due to the sheer volume of critical care learning and connecting opportunities. With these tips and thousands of critical care colleagues ready to help you navigate your first Congress, you’re sure to have a great experience.

Join your colleagues during Critical Care Week at the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s
(SCCM) 49th Critical Care Congress in Orlando, Florida, USA.

At #CCC49, you will connect with colleagues, network and collaborate with other critical care experts, and explore new tools, technologies, and processes. Register at

Caitlin Cundiff, ACNP-BC
Caitlin Cundiff, ACNP-BC
Caitlin Cundiff, ACNP-BC, is a critical care advanced practice provider at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She attended her first Critical Care Congress in 2018 as a resident and recently graduated from her critical care residency at Emory. @caitlin_cundiff

Posted: 10/15/2019 | 0 comments

Knowledge Area: Professional Development and Education 

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