In early 2020, AdventHealth Global Missions, the health system’s liaison program for their international footprint facilities, grappled with a new reality: their seventh consecutive nursing conference couldn’t meet in-person. COVID-19 had already changed the topography of 2020, and without an end in sight, events everywhere were at a stand-still.
Normally, the annual nursing conference is held the second week of September. Nurses from seven of the AdventHealth Global Missions footprints – Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Peru and the Philippines – gather for three days in Orlando, Florida, to connect with peers, expand clinical knowledge and focus on nursing excellence.
“Due to the pandemic,” Monty Jacobs, director of AdventHealth Global Missions, said, “we felt like we had three choices.” The team could cancel or postpone the conference, but they didn’t want to interfere with scheduling in the coming year. Instead, they adapted to the pandemic environment by producing virtual sessions focused on COVID-19 response.
“There was only two months to plan, which is a quick turnaround time,” said Shelby Houmann, the program’s communications specialist and event coordinator, “but our partner footprints were expected to experience [COVID-19] spikes after the U.S., so we wanted to prepare them.” The virtual conference gave them the perfect opportunity to educate, safely.
“We also wanted to highlight how our service standards of Keep Me Safe, Love Me, Make it Easy and Own It were key to our COVID-19 response. This formed the basis for the online conference,” Jacobs said. For the first session on July 15, attendees observed how the Keep Me Safe standard is implemented in AdventHealth’s COVID-19 code blue protocols, personal protective equipment (PPE) donning and doffing and hospital screening processes.
The online setup allows for more participants, but some attendees like Janette Faigao must adhere to a 12-hour time zone difference. But, Faigao, who is from Manila Adventist College School of Nursing in the Philippines, is still able to appreciate the material covered in the conference: “Since I am connected in the academe, it gives us broader insights on different topics in nursing education. We will use all the techniques we learned.”
The online conference has its perks: the webinars are easily recorded and saved on YouTube, and there’s additional viewership from participants who aren’t always able to join in person, including from countries outside the footprints, such as Pakistan and Shri Lanka.
Though the virtual conference provides curated pandemic response expertise for overseas nurses, Faigao still looks forward to meeting in Florida again. The AdventHealth Global Missions team acknowledges the benefits of an in-person experience but are also finding that meeting virtually extends their reach to a broader audience and provides fluidity within the online format. “In the future,” Houmann said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we offer [both].”
This virtual nursing conference has equipped the attendees with topical COVID-19 response information, but the organizers are always looking ahead. “We are hoping this series and the things we’ve learned not only help our partner institutions in the moment but moving forward,” Houmann said.