Scientific Meetings and Symposiums – Opportunities for Professional Development and Networking
by Prof Rajat Gyaneshwar
The modern day health professional aspires to be up to date in knowledge and skills to be able to provide the best care for their patients. The public expectation is that they will receive the highest level of care with compassion, respect and dignity. In response to these aspirations and expectations the Pacific Society for Reproductive Health (PSRH), national Obstetrics & Gynaecological (O&G) Societies of Papua New Guinea, Fiji and others have been increasingly involved in organizing biennial and annual scientific conferences, symposiums and workshops which bring together health professionals from the region to learn from each other and network. It is heartening that PSRH brings together different cadres involved in the delivery of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) care, acknowledging that quality care requires a team effort to respond to the different aspects of SRH.
Professional development recognizes that all of us have the potential to continue to develop increasing levels of expertise as well as improvements in our approaches to deliver quality care. It also recognizes that unless we are involved in maintaining our skill sets we tend to lose them. Thus an expert’s skills can be lost due to lack of practice. Additionally, it is important that health professionals keep abreast of evidence based best practices so that changes in management approaches are instituted appropriately. What was once best practice at some point in time may have become unacceptable practice.
It is important that we as individual practitioners become life-long learners and recognize that learning is our personal responsibility. This requires regular reading, literature reviews, consultation and research. In addition, we need to search for opportunities to meet with our colleagues and learn through discussion, debating, sharing and listening. Scientific meetings and symposiums provide wonderful events for this. At these meetings we have the rare opportunity to interact with and listen to invited experts who can update us on evidence based practices.
The adult learning literature says that adults learn best by sharing and testing out their learning experiences with each other. The learning context must be respectful with plenty of opportunity to interact and to appreciate the exchange of experience. Our experience in the Pacific is that health professionals are most participatory and responsive to interactive learning opportunities. Conference and symposium organisers need to be cognizant of this and therefore capitalize on settings that use interactive participation.
From its early beginning in 1993, PSRH has worked to bring together health professionals so they can network and stimulate their learning through professional dialogue and sharing on a regular basis. Over the years, PSRH has linked up with RANZCOG, national O&G Societies, and national Midwifery Societies to broaden and expand the opportunities for adult learning in the field of maternal-newborn health and sexual and reproductive health. It is now 25 years since PSRH was established. Every 2 years it has held a well-structured scientific conference preceded by a number of technical workshops. The midwifery and O&G Societies have similar meetings at country level. Attendances at these meetings have generally been sponsored through donor contribution to PSRH, but sponsorships are becoming more difficult to negotiate. Therefore, it is logical that health professionals should start moving towards self-sponsored participation in these meetings.
Having worked in the Pacific for more than 40 years, I am humble to say that I am still learning from fellow professional colleagues. I wish to aspire you all to commit yourselves to doing the best for our patients by maintaining clinical competence and adhering to current best practices in all aspects of safe pregnancy and delivery and overall women’s health. At every stage of the health profession, everyone should take responsibility for one’s own professional development and as we go up the ladder, we should adopt leadership skills and become role models for junior colleagues.