ANAHEIM, Calif.—Late last year, the Oncology Nursing Society announced plans to amend its conference structure by consolidating the annual ONS Congress and the “Connections: Advancing Care Through Science” meetings into one national meeting (OT 4/10/14 issue). ONS sought feedback from members here at this year's Congress about the transition.
2014 will be the first year there will be no fall conference. (The annual research-based “Connections” conference had been offered since 2012, and prior to that, ONS had hosted its Institutes of Learning [IOL] conference each November.)
“In principle I really like the idea of pulling things together—one of the things I come [to the meetings] for is to network,” one nurse attendee shared during the session at this year's Congress. “The concern that I have, though, is overlapping sessions. I want to be able to pick and choose from all the content that is available and be able to interact with everyone.”
She had attended most ONS Congresses since 1978 and several IOL conferences, she said.
“That's good feedback,” said Brian K. Theil, ONS's Director of Membership and Component Relations, who co-moderated the session with Deborah Kirk Walker, DNP, FNP-BC, AOCN, Assistant Professor and Nurse Practitioner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing and Director-at-Large on the ONS Board of Directors.
“We want attendees to have the opportunity to attend sessions both within and outside of their primary interest,” he said. “The new conference experience really is about bringing everyone together—not having four concurrent conferences—we want to have one integrated conference that accommodates everyone.”
Another nurse, though, noted that she was concerned that one big integrated meeting would be too big: “I have at least one nurse who is intimidated by the Congress who never comes because it's too big for her. She had gone to IOL—she felt that was much more manageable. Are we getting too big? And, historically Congress would be on one side of the country and IOL would be on the other, which offered more individuals on an annual basis the opportunity to attend if they had limited financial resources to help pay for their trip. Especially in the current economy with shrinking education dollars available, I fear you will lose attendees.”
This attendee suggested a virtual Congress option, for which members would pay the same fee to be able to attend Congress sessions online (and earn the same credits).
Theil noted that the annual meeting—whatever the new structure looks like—will continue to move around the country to accommodate the full membership. And, ONS is beginning to experiment with live-streaming and online conference options, he said. “We're certainly going to look into it.”
And, he added, ONS this year is offering e-conferences on specialized topics—the first of which, “Pharmacology Update: Integrating Advances Into Practice,” took place in June.
Another concern was over how to maintain the research element of ONS, despite no longer having a conference dedicated to it: “I'm one of the nurses still grieving the demise of the research conference,” said Lauri Linder, PhD, APRN, CPON, Assistant Professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing. “I want to make sure we are still preserving that component of what we've offered in the past—the opportunity to really showcase the state of the science, as well as the networking.”
No one stakeholder group should feel like they are losing their sense of identity in this transition, Theil said. “We know that's a sensitivity. We want to build this global conference experience for everybody.”
In addition to the session at Congress for members to comment on ONS's plans to restructure the conference schedule, the Society held focus groups with attendees about this year's meeting as well as past experiences. ONS also conducted post-Congress surveys to attendees. And, ONS used Facebook and Twitter to pose questions to members about their experience attending the 2014 Congress—“that's not necessarily scientific feedback, but that's another opportunity to draw feedback from the membership at large,” Theil noted.
ONS also encourages members to share feedback about Congress and evolving the overall meeting structure via email to SuggestionBox@ONS.org.