This week I have been incredibly lucky to attend the Royal College of Nursing’s 2012 International Nursing Research Conference, in the heart of London. This had always been an aim of mine and I thrilled when my abstract for an oral presentation, explaining my project and findings, was accepted.
In the weeks leading up to the event I carefully planned, changed and tweaked my presentation, with my ever supportive officemates Catherine and Dominic kindly listening to my presentation (in Cath’s case this was more than once – thank you). Equipped with my new iPad (I am in fact sat in the exhibition hall of the conference writing this while my memories and enthusiasm are still fresh) and the odd new outfit, I arrived in a soggy central London on the morning of the conference raring to go. Set in the Grand Connaught Rooms in Holborn, right next next door to the imposing central Masonic Hall, this made an impressive setting. The grandeur of the venue was almost overwhelming, with sweeping staircases and high ceilinged rooms, opulent chandeliers hanging boldly.
I presented in the conference’s only renal theme group on the first day and the session went very well. The first presentation considered an intervention aiming to promote patients’ quality of life when receiving haemodialysis, followed by my session considering living at home with peritoneal dialysis, with the final session exploring experiences of kidney transplant failure. The three sessions complimented each other well and there were transferable themes throughout the presentations. The subsequent questions I was asked were challenging and encouraged me to think differently about my data and project overall.
During the rest of the conference, and with a huge sigh of relief that my presentation was now over, the range of sessions has been incredible. The conference is truly international and interestingly the challenges faced by our respective health organisations are in many ways similar, for example staffing issues and budget cuts. I have attended sessions very relevant to my research, exploring reflexivity and decision-making in qualitative research, long-term conditions and end of life care, as well as workshops on publishing and the viva. Other sessions have also been relevant to my clinical practice, particularly the theme considering stroke care as I work regularly these days in neurosurgery and stroke rehabilitation. Networking is, as many of you know, vital at conferences and I have met many experienced nursing researchers and academics, who have been welcoming and supportive.
However, one of the sessions that I found the most revealing considered the use of internet based research, in particular the use of virtual worlds. The researcher explained interviewing people in the virtual world about health information, showing us the virtual space where she conducted interviews (a cosy 3D room complete with rug, armchairs and plants) and her ‘avatar’. Now, I thought that Avatar was a film with blue people – that I’ve actually never seen – but in fact an avatar in the online person that the user creates and that they use to interact with others. While this could theoretically take any form, apparently people tend to create a slightly more attractive version of themselves. Using virtual worlds enables researchers to recruit and interview people from across the world, allowing this to take part through verbal or written interviews. Although this method and space has complex ethical issues, it opens up a new and exciting world to researchers. I felt both very old, never having heard of virtual worlds, and that my research was a touch old-fashioned! Perhaps I need to begin thinking about the virtual world, after all, I do now have twitter – although I’m yet to tweet – and of course blog…
So overall, this has been an interesting, diverse and relevant conference, beneficial both to my research and clinical practice, and I am looking forward to next year already.