Research Congress gets HER vote!

By Anna Dermenchyan | 08/15/2016

I promised myself to attend every year that time and resources permit.

Anna Dermenchyan

The International Nursing Research Congress, sponsored annually by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI), is unlike any other conference. I would know, since I’m a self-proclaimed conference junkie and attend as many as I can.
 
My first experience with Congress took place in 2015 when I traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had no specific expectations but hoped for the best since I was spending a lot of money for registration and travel. I was not disappointed. It turned out to be one of the best conference experiences I’ve had. Special treats included hanging out with members of the Next Generation Leaders (NGL) Task Force and United Nations representatives and going kayaking one evening in the bioluminescent waters of Laguna Grande in Fajardo. These experiences helped me appreciate the uniqueness of STTI as an international organization and how a supportive environment can bring diverse groups of people together with a common goal. I promised myself to attend Research Congress every year that time and resources permit.
 
Anna Dermenchyan presenting at congress.I have found Research Congress a place where researchers, practitioners, and other nurse leaders, as well as students, gather to share knowledge and create an environment of learning. A primary focus of the conference is to highlight nursing scholarship, and this is done through presentations on research, quality improvement, and evidence-based practice.
 
No matter where you are on your professional journey, you feel welcomed and appreciated at Research Congress. Therefore, when the time came to submit abstracts for the 27th International Nursing Research Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, I made a point of submitting as many as I could so I would have a formal excuse to attend. South Africa had been on my bucket list for many years, but I thought it would not happen until sometime in the distant future. The more I contemplated the prospect of traveling to South Africa, the more convinced I became that this was not only a great opportunity to present my projects, but a chance for another amazing adventure. I started planning my trip the day I received my first acceptance letter.
 
My 18-day adventure, which began with a 28-hour flight from Los Angeles to Cape Town by way of Dubai, kicked off with the conference in Cape Town and ended with my first African safari at the Sabi Sand Game Reserve near Kruger National Park. Throughout my travel, I learned so much about the people and country of South Africa, as well as influences of other countries on the nation’s various regions. Most importantly, I observed how the mission of STTI—advancing world health and celebrating nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service—is fully embraced at Research Congress.
 
Leadership
Attending Research Congress offers the opportunity to build communication and leadership skills for all levels of nursing. For example, volunteering to be a moderator for various sessions allowed me to interact with speakers and connect with session attendees while building on my time management and facilitator skills. In addition, I benefited by attending some very informative leadership sessions, such as “Developing nurse leaders within the community” and “Influencing health through policy: The dynamic role of nurses in the boardroom.” Each session provided information that was unique and supported by research.
 
One presenter reminded us of the Florence Nightingale pledge that states, “I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession.” Affirming this pledge reaffirmed my decision to be a nurse and give back to the profession of nursing in meaningful ways.
 
I was excited to meet key leaders of STTI, including President Cathy Catrambone and CEO Patricia Thompson, who were available to speak to each of the attendees about his or her experiences at the conference. Overall, Research Congress validated that nurses bring unique skills into the conversation. And, by empowering nurses to build stronger communication and leadership skills, Congress helps increase the impact nurses make in their communities and the world.
 
Scholarship
Attending Research Congress offers the opportunity to present one’s research or evidence-based project to an international audience. I felt fortunate to present projects via both podium and poster. My podium presentation described a collaborative project I did with four colleagues from UCLA Health. The goals of this project, “Yo entiendo: I understand,” were to understand cultural barriers faced by Spanish-speaking heart failure patients and to examine three themes that emerged from conversations between patients and healthcare team members. This turned out to be a very engaging session with great audience participation.
 
In addition, I presented one poster on inpatient mortality and another one on hospital readmissions, which gave me the chance to meet national experts on those topics. I was especially grateful to be chosen by the UCLA School of Nursing to present, for a Rising Stars and Scholarship Invited Student Poster Session, a collaborative project with fellow PhD candidates titled “The relationship between BMI and clinical factors in heart failure.” Using a linear regression model, this secondary-analysis research project studied the association between body mass index (BMI) and ejection fraction (EF). I was proud of our work and was excited to share the outcomes of the study. These presentations and the interaction they provided with other attendees helped build my confidence and reassured me I am pursuing the right path in my professional journey.
 
Service
Research Congress honors numerous individuals who have made great contributions to the advancement of world health. At the awards banquet and African cultural celebration, several nurses were recognized for their service and leadership. It was inspiring to hear the stories of the honorees and learn about the contributions each had made to the profession of nursing and the communities they serve.
 
Dermenchyan_article2_embed_3Q16_SFW2Visiting another country provides an opportunity to learn about another culture and its people. On one occasion, I interacted with Remember Mabuza, a driver who, a few times a month, travels four hours from his village to work in the city. Remember told me that his village had been severely affected by a drought. Because it does not have a local water source, women and children have to travel many long hours to bring water back to the village. For three years, the village’s residents have been asking their government to help them build water wells, but, so far, nothing has been done. As a result, the people have lost trust in their officials and have taken matters into their own hands.
 
Every weekend, the villagers walk to the nearest town to ask business owners for small donations. They plan to collect enough money by the end of the year to build their own water well. Hearing Remember’s story, my friend and I were compelled to help him and his fellow residents. We donated $100 to the cause and promised Remember that, after returning to the United States, we would raise more funds and awareness for his village. Since my return, I have been communicating with him by email and tracking fundraising progress.
 
As you can see, my attendance at the 27th International Nursing Research Congress in Cape Town gave me opportunities to build communication and leadership skills, share knowledge and scholarship, and commit to a service activity. I have made new friends and expanded my network of colleagues from all across the globe. I have now attended two Research Congresses and have returned from both feeling inspired and renewed at many levels. I am currently preparing to submit abstracts for the 28th International Nursing Research Congress scheduled for 27-31 July 2017 in Dublin, Ireland. Please consider joining me!
 
Anna Dermenchyan, RN, BSN, CCRN-K, senior clinical quality specialist, Department of Medicine, UCLA Health, and PhD student at UCLA School of Nursing, began her nursing career in the UCLA cardiothoracic ICU, where, for five years, she cared for heart transplant and other surgical patients. She currently serves as president of Gamma Tau-at-Large Chapter and is a committee member of STTI’s Next Generation Leaders Task Force.
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