With the return of the Emergency Care Conference in 2022 I have been asked to write a reflective piece about my experiences of the emergency care conferences that I had attended back in the day.  I have to say that that my mind was immediately filled with a kaleidoscope of great memories on places, people and multifaceted aspects of emergency care marked by clinical practice, research, leadership and management. However, for me the most memorable were the many nurses who were truly inspirational and innovative and who made their mark on emergency care and nursing both nationally and internationally. 

As I set out for my first Emergency Care Conference, I expected it to be like other conferences I had attended – a few days of sitting in lectures, networking with people I might never meet again, collecting free pens from all the exhibitors and simply getting away for a few days. Little did I know that the ECA and this conference would become an essential part of my development and survival kit over the next few years. 

Why was it different? Well, this was the first conference I attended where I had the opportunity to meet, network and hang out with emergency nurses. A conference designed and run by emergency nurses for emergency nurses and the majority of the conference was delivered by emergency nurses. This annual Emergency Care Conference focused on innovation in clinical practice within the emergency department. This could include new and emerging technologies, innovation in practice and clinical practice guidelines, new or innovative processes for streamlining clinical practice and improving patient outcomes through, fast tracking, triage and patient care/flow management strategies, including interdisciplinary care 

It quickly became apparent to me that the conference was aimed at all levels of emergency nurses within both large and small Emergency Departments; from nurses wishing to gain skills and knowledge in current trends within emergency care or/and advanced practice essentially any nurses with an interest in emergency nursing. As the years progressed and emergency nursing became more inclusive, it included other allied health care professionals with an interest in or working within all areas of emergency care. 

With different themes each year the conference provided the perfect opportunity for me to stay up to date not just with some of the latest research and but most importantly for this clinical nurse challenging and keeping up to date emergency nursing best practices. Even as my career advanced I never looked at a programme and thought there is nothing here for me. 

I found the variety of sessions gave me the opportunity to learn from experts about important emergency nursing issues from hands-on clinical and trauma education to leadership and management topics. It enabled me to learn about important research/projects in emergency care, learn directly from the ‘Trial and error’ and experiences of others and share best practices. I could choose topics that relate to my daily patient care or other interests and if they clashed talk to others about the session they attended. I began to appreciate that it gave me a way to meet, interact with, and make contacts with experts in emergency nursing in a safe environment. I got the opportunity to interact with these individuals not only in a ‘question and answer’ format but also during downtime. This gave me a real-time opportunity to have my questions answered by those with a proven track record and I got the opportunity to explore with nurses from other locations throughout the country to see how they approach similar dilemmas I faced.  

This unique learning environment had a direct impact on my daily clinical practice and challenged me to improve the safety and quality of care in my workplace.  It also exposed me to a great interdisciplinary platform where researchers, practitioners and educators presented and discussed the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns as well as practical challenges encountered and solutions implemented in the domains of Emergency Nursing and Emergency Care. It offered me the opportunity to engage with project such as the Faculty of Emergency Nursing.

At the international conferences I could connect with peers from around the world during networking opportunities, I quickly found that emergency nurses from the other side of the country, or even the other side of the world have the same difficulties, the same concerns and the same joys that I did in my daily practice.  I learned that all the things that drove me nuts about my job, are the same things that drove a nurse manager in Australia crazy too, waiting times, staffing etc.

I realize that the conferences enabled me to reconnect at least yearly with long-term emergency nursing colleagues and also make new friends. It made me appreciate that learning happens in both formal and informal settings. Downtime lends to animated conversations with peers that spark ideas for practice innovations, its amazing how a few glasses of wine make the conversations and ideas flow!! 

I also made my first national presentation at an Emergency Care conference, the support and encouragement from the organising team was amazing and I walked away feeling empowered with the feedback I received from a cross section of attendees, needless to say it wasn’t my last presentation.   I began to really appreciate that we all have something valuable to offer our patient’s care with presentations from newly qualified nurses to university professors. 

The annual conference become known for its timely education, excellent networking and, of course, fun.. The weeks coming up to conference was occupied with finding an appropriate fancy dress for the chosen theme and ensuring to pack an outfit for the Conference Dinner Dance. Social events, including these gave me time to mingle and socialize with colleagues and create great memories.  


As I travelled home after each conference I always felt energised and motivated, with gratitude for the wonderful opportunity that I had to reconnect with so many wonderful people, for the growth and knowledge acquisition. Perhaps it was best described to me by a staff nurse who attended the conference for the first time ‘if you told me before we came that I would spend 3 days in a hotel with around 400 emergency nurses and my manager and have an enlightening, amazing time I would not have believed you!!, any chance of attending next year?’ 

Liz Whelan, retired emergency nurse. 2022

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