A few days ago I returned home to the UK from Australia after a brief sojorn in Hong Kong and it’s time to think back and consider what SMACCGold meant to me and to ask myself just why it felt so different. Rather surprisingly, perhaps, the person who best summed SMACC Gold up in my mind wasn’t one of the high profile speakers, it wasn’t even another clinician, but one of the waiting staff in the conference venue.
“What are you all?” she asked me
“What do you mean?” asked I
“Well, we have all sorts of conferences here: Real Estate agents; Pharmaceutical companies; big businesses, but you all seem different. You are all so kind”
To me, this encapsulated perfectly what this conference was all about and that an “outsider” could spot this spoke volumes. The blogosphere has been overwhelmed, unsurprisingly, by articles extolling just how amazing this event was, which to a non attendee may seem like unnecessary hyperbole. This reaction, I believe, wasn’t because of the high quality of the presentations or the flamboyance of the opening ceremony, but because it felt like you were in a room full of compassionate, passionate, caring, like minded friends. It was an environment where adrenalized procedures were discussed, but the most memorable moments were spent talking about the most difficult issues we face and when personal stories were interwoven with education. In amongst the bravado and humour speakers weren’t afraid to give a little of themselves and this instilled genuine feeling of warmth and friendship throughout the auditorium. The conferences badges worn by all, stated only the wearer’s name, with no mention of grade, speciality or even profession. A chance conversation in the queue for coffee could be had with a paramedic student or a professor of emergency medicine and each was equally valuable and enjoyable, giving different insights into the strange world of critical care that we all inhabit.
As I read through the numerous blogs and twitter comments after the conference I am struck by a feeling of sadness that I didn’t get the opportunity to meet more of the delegates, but reassured that these relationships can grow over the next year leading up to SMACCUS in Chicago. Many who don’t use social media scoff at those who do, believing it to be superficial and an escape from reality, but it turns out, that in my opinion, the opposite is true. When meeting, in person, some of those whose comments I had read online the usual barriers were immediately broken down, allowing more meaningful friendships to develop in a shorter time. The use of Twitter also allowed real time audience interaction with speakers making them seem less distant and more accessible. This wasn’t didactic learning, but a conversation between colleagues who care.
So, what will I take back to work in the ED as I attempt re-entry into society? Perhaps that we will all always have a lot to learn, but that by treating our colleagues as friends and patients as if they were family our ability to care will always be greater. It’s not what we know that is important, but who we are.