Nutrition Support Blog: Contributing to the Field
August 30, 2013
Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine, wrote about the importance of medical societies and their meetings in the late 1890’s. Osler proposed that discussions and input from colleagues was essential to prevent dogmatism, or getting too high of an opinion of your own practice because of past successes. He also encouraged clinicians to share what they had learned with others, to be “as willing to teach as to be taught.
Today, we have many more options for gathering new information and collaboration with our peers than they did in 1894 – online journals, email, blogs, listservs and other social media. Nonetheless, I am convinced that professional meetings are still as valuable as they were “back in the day.” At the very least, it is nice to meet others in your profession who share the same professional triumphs and frustrations. It is also great to see the leading experts in person and hear the latest data and opinions. However, I have found that one of the most valuable aspects of large conferences are the poster sessions and abstracts. The practice posters represent the work of clinicians “down in the trenches” with real patients, and very often you will find practical ideas and protocols that you can take back to your facility and use right away. This is information that you can’t find on Pubmed, and even if some of the research is eventually published, the conference abstract is often available months to a year before the full publication.
The practice posters are also a great opportunity to contribute to the field. You don’t need access to a Cray supercomputer, radioactive isotopes or the Hadron collider to submit an abstract. Many clinicians have developed clinical protocols, order sets or collected quality data that would be valuable to other professionals. We were initially hesitant to submit our first abstract to ASPEN because we were concerned that our quality survey (amount of nutrition actually received in the ICU) was not worthy. It took a serious amount of persuasion from a seasoned clinician to convince us. During our poster session at the conference, after we had so many great conversations with other nutrition support professionals, we realized that our information really did help other people. We also learned one of the secrets of presenting a talk or abstract at a conference: in the process, the presenter often learns as much or more than the attendees. We found that the whole abstract process was much easier, less intimidating and more fun than we previously thought. In stepping back and thinking about our next abstract, we were examining how we did things, ways to improve practice and research questions we should be asking. Over time, the process of presenting information has enriched us as clinicians, helped our patients, made our whole job more interesting and earned us the appreciation of our supervisors and facility.
I would encourage everyone to submit an abstract to a major conference. If you don’t have anything ready for this year, then I strongly encourage you to attend the next conference as more than a passive learner. Observe what and how information is presented this year while considering what and how you want to present next year. Consider what your patients and facility need, and after getting permission (where needed), start to collect data to present next year. I suspect that you will realize soon enough, that Sir William knew what he was talking about.
“You cannot afford to stand aloof from your professional colleagues in any place. Join their associations, mingle in their meetings, giving of best of your talents, gathering here, scattering there; but everywhere showing that you are at all times faithful students, as willing to teach as to be taught.” - William Osler, 1894
“Teaching is the highest form of understanding.”