In July I attended the ICN conference and wrote this blog post on the drive home. I didn’t publish it because I had other priorities and have finally gotten a chance to return to it to share a few lessons. It was a long conference with many sessions (scheduled from 0715 to 1930 on most days) so I will not go over each session I attended. Before I begin I want to express my gratitude to Queen’s University and Cambrian College for contributing towards funding so I could attend this event.

Disseminate Better

A key message at the conference that was reinforced in discussion with a colleague before, during, and after the conference is that we need to do a better job telling others about the good work we do. It might not look like it, but I can be a little shy to share. A colleague pointed out that in some ways I suffer a little from tall poppy syndrome.

Oddly enough I am 100% comfortable sharing innovations in some arenas (like conferences and publication), and not very good at sharing in other ways. I am going to put more energy into purposefully considering the best ways to disseminate work on projects that I am involved in those places I am not always comfortable.

One of the sessions towards the beginning of the conference was about “Caring with courage,” a BBC production that I intend to watch about nursing. The video clips had me thinking about making videos about my projects to help with dissemination. Depending on who your audience is there are different ways to catch their attention – video is a good one. For example, my colleague who I was with thought a trailer for our virtual simulation would be a good idea and I agree.

It also helps to get creative with recruitment. We are always talking about how challenging recruitment is and I have seen more and more use of postcards to try and get people to participate.

I was also at a session on the last day after Justin Trudeau came to the conference where the speaker said that it is strategic to invite the Prime Minister to the conference. I am not sure where I might ever be able to use this technique, but it makes a lot of sense to involve people in positions of power in events to help build relationships.


The best thing about this conference by far (and most conferences) was the networking. I met some amazing nurses and talked about potential future collaborations. There are a few that I still have on my to-do list to act on. It is also important that I do not overcommit so I will be waiting until I wrap up a few projects (including my PhD) before taking action on them.

Learn to Say No

On the drive home I listened to a podcast recommended to me by a friend that is right on point for what I need right now. There are so many things that I want to do, that I am capable of doing, and that I would enjoy doing. I am guilty of signing myself up for too many conferences and projects lately – so much so that it is a little “excessive.” I came to this realization before the conference but wasn’t taking real action to address the problem. I feel the need to help my colleagues who are growing as scholars, am thoroughly enjoying my PhD (which is still on schedule by the way) and have committed to several side projects. I don’t want to be that person that overcommits and lets others down by either stepping away from the project or not investing the energy into it that it needs. I want to continue to be fully engaged with my teams and produce meaningful work (not just a high number). For that reason I am prioritizing project completion and publications over presentations. In the days since the conference I have been really good at saying “no” to new opportunities as needed. It isn’t always easy since I enjoy the work so much, but it is needed.

Sell Yourself

I am immensely proud of the project I worked on with my Cambrian colleagues where we co-created a virtual simulation with people with lived experience of bipolar disorder and have wrapped several papers/presentations around to make sure it impacts healthcare education.

Unfortunately, we only got accepted for a poster at ICN. Posters without a presentation time like ours seemed to be an ineffective way to share study findings. While I cannot say exactly why that was, I think one factor was how we contextualized the presentation. We could have done a better job showcasing the potentially unique impact of our project on frontline nurses and internationally.

Less is More

When it comes to posters my favourite ones had fewer words. We tried hard to make our posters aesthetically pleasing but it was hard to keep the word count down on some of them. I noticed some innovative ways of presenting the data that was more direct and to the point and/or artistic.

Inclusion Matters

I noticed a lack of gender-neutral washrooms both at the conference and in the surrounding areas. More than that, I heard that some people made comments that would have been against the code of conduct for most conferences and they were not addressed by the moderator. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I really hope that ICN takes this feedback and improves for the next time.

I could not get into sessions that I wanted to on racism and equity because the rooms they booked were too small. Considering how important and timely these topics are, I was very sad that there wasn’t more space for people in the session. While I know it is hard to plan a conference I think it was predictable that theses sessions needed a bigger room. I was at a conference recently that was able to offer a repeat session. I don’t know if they tried to do that or not, but it would have been nice to do so.

Inclusion also matters when bringing international nurses to Canada. There was a lot of discussion about this very complex issue. One important consideration is making sure they are supported in their new workplaces.


Leadership is so important at all levels. Several sessions addressed leadership. I ended up bringing these lessons into a class that I am teaching. I was able to bring some examples of nurse-leaders into the classroom and reinforced some of Simon’s key messages. This is a must-watch video:

We Need Change

It is also abundantly clear that nursing is in crises mode. We need to work together to change nursing work conditions.

Mental Health

We need real action to address mental health challenges among clients and nurses. During one session I sat beside a nurse in human resources at a hospital in Switzerland (or was it Sweden) who said they were in charge of mental health. I said that was a hard thing to figure out and asked if the figured it out because popsicles isn’t enough. What they described sounded like meaningful action was taken. They had psychologists available to nurses throughout the pandemic – people to take care of the people working in the hospital. That is so important. As Simon pointed out, too many administrators think their priority is to make sure that patients are taken care of when it is actually the staff they should be taking care of – if they do that then the staff will take care of the patients. The same applies to other practice settings. See the video below:

And More

I didn’t get time on the ride home to finish reflecting on all the lessons and I don’t have time now, so here are some more tweets that speak to the main messages I took away from the conference.

Education Changes lives


Global Health

Defining Nursing


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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