Niccole Rowe, BA, COTA/L Founding Partner of Aspire OT

Are OT Conferences Really Worth It?

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Have you ever been to an occupational therapy conference? If the answer is no, you really, really should consider attending. Why? Keep reading as I make the case that these events can be re-invigorating.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the Western Regional Occupational Spring Symposium (WROTSS) in Las Vegas. Five western state OT associations work together to put on this event which is now every other year. Aspire OT was a sponsor to help support more state associations. The content was excellent. Everyone was friendly. It was an amazing event. Based on that event (and my other conference experiences) here are some reasons that I feel make conferences a do-not-miss item.

Before I launch into the list, I do want to give a shout out to Megan Doyle MS, OTR/L, TPS, PFS, Cert-APHPT who is one of our Aspire OT instructors. She had a great course on graded motor Imagery at conference. We are so grateful here at Aspire to have her be part of our Aspire OT instructor family. Also, the Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado had their current president Linda Crawford, OTR/L, CDWF, give the keynote at the conference. Linda's address was empowering and inspiring for OT practitioners to embrace our value and worthiness. We are proud to partner with OTAC in our state association Partnership Program

1.       Where else are you going to find hundreds (or thousands) of other people who get you and what you do? We all know occupational therapy is underrecognized and misunderstood. We can get tired of having to explain what we do to others. It is nice to be surrounded by others who understand our profession. Even though we are all different as OTs and OTAs, we share the same training, philosophies, and love for our great profession. It is just exciting to be around so many OTs, OTAs, and students. The community feeling is so strong.

2.       Attend live courses that are often interactive and only for occupational therapy. Alright, you know that I think Aspire OT is amazing. We offer interactive webinars that are just for OT. (Have I mentioned our subscription?). I also love the chance to block of several days and knock out a lot of CEs at one time. Bonus points that conference courses are live and have a chance to interact with the instructors. So while I highly recommend Aspire OT, I do think the conference experience is great too! I was able to earn 19 hours of CEs at WROTSS.

3.       You will make new friends. Your new friend(s) will introduce you to more friends and then BAM you have this great network of OT folks. It can be intimidating to show up for the first time to conference especially if you don’t know anyone! Bringing a friend is always fun (and you can share room costs!). I find that over the years I always make new friends at each conference. Oftentimes, I get introduced to folks that the new friend knows as well. It makes for a fun time of networking and learning about some of the cool things going on in our profession too! Once you are hooked on going to conferences, you can look forward to seeing friends from past conferences too!

4.       Learn the latest techniques and trends in our profession. I find that conferences have the highest concentration of courses, vendors, and even just attendees that are talking about new techniques, research, or the latest trends in our profession. At WROTSS, I heard about OT’s growing role in pelvic health, new research about better ways to reach OT practitioners about ethics, and more information about the OT Licensure Compact. And that is just naming a few of the things I learned!

5.       It is fun. Occupational therapy practitioners know how to keep your attention and how to have fun. Most conferences I have been to have some music or dancing. Some of them focus on specific times to recharge through quiet time or some light yoga. One conference I attended even had a sensory room! While you are learning and growing skills for your practice, you will probably have a smile on your face and leave feeling recharged.

Conferences are really a time that I can focus on myself and how I want to grow as an OT practitioner. I can spend time connecting to those that I share professional values with and that those relationships can help me throughout the rest of the year when I am feeling challenged or lost in my daily practice. I know that they can be expensive. You can start with your state OT association conference is maybe close to you. Consider traveling with friends to cut down on costs as well. I find the investment is well worth it for me!

As I created this list, I can see how many of these same reasons are threaded in Aspire OT. Kim and I started Aspire OT to build the same community feeling I talked about above. We are all better together and supporting each other. It is something we talk about a lot at Aspire and how we can work to grow that community experience. Our courses are just for occupational therapy too. We look for instructors who are practicing the concepts that they teach. We attend conferences and network to hear about OT practitioners who are advancing our profession. We want to bring those same concepts to our learners. So we hope to see you at conferences, but know that you can also join our Aspire OT community to feel connected and empowered too!

Written by: Niccole Rowe, BA, COTA/L
Founding Partner of Aspire OT

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