RT Assesses Cost-to-Benefit Ratio of AARC Conference
After my blog last month that addressed the cost of attending the AARC conference, I want to report my own personal cost/benefit analysis of the largest respiratory convention in the world. Overall I am glad I went. I would give the entire experience a rating of 7 out of 10.
Day 1: I arrived in Tampa on Thursday so that I could get checked into the Marriott, the host hotel, the evening prior to the mechanical ventilation class that was scheduled for Friday morning. I had tried to let-go of my duly noted feelings about the $2000-plus price to attend this conference. I wanted to make it worth every penny.
Day 2: As I walked downstairs to the meeting room level of the hotel, I was surprised that I didn't see many people. Marriott employees soon pointed me down a winding hall to the AARC meeting. Upon arrival I learned I was in the wrong place! The only AARC meetings being held at the Marriott were for AARC leadership and executive members. The meeting I was scheduled to attend was a block away and across two streets. I was shocked by this since promotional material clearly said the conference was being held "at the Marriott." It was "at the Marriott" for the executives and AARC leadership ... but down the street on the other side of the Embassy Suites for the rest of us. Had I known that the bulk of the classes were not at the Marriott, I would have stayed somewhere else where my military discount would have been honored. Nevertheless, the mechanical ventilation class - albeit a block away and two streets over -- was superb. It was worth every penny. It was very detailed and had a wonderful mix of debate, presentation, demonstration, and audio/visual use. This was money well spent.
Days 3-6: The bulk of the conference was "ok." The major speeches and events were truly of the highest quality. There was also a wide variety of smaller classes to earn CEU credit. If I had a critique of the events it would be that no topic seemed to be discussed in detail. Virtually every class offered was only 30 minutes long and counted for .5 CEU. (And in all honesty after five minutes of introductions and all disclosers of conflicts of interest, you ended up with 20 minutes on a topic and little or no time for questions/discussion at the end. This is not nearly enough time to discuss topics like high flow oxygen, or APRV mode...)
Otherwise, the AARC classes were good and offered a quick look at a variety of topics. I think a lot could be learned from the vendor hall with regard to quality education. The vendor hall is what made the conference worth the trip for me. These vendors had continuing education down to a science, offering at least a full hour per topic in most cases. (With the breakfast meetings you got a good two hours.) In addition to longer, more in-depth classes, there was unlimited time to talk one-on-one with the teacher presenting the information. I clearly learned more from the vendor classes than I did from the AARC classes. (And I earned a lot more CEUs from them as well.)
On a side note, it makes sense that the AARC promotes this conference to the vendors as a way for them to get in front of decision makers in the field. As such, conference planners seem content with the vendors doing the bulk of the heavy lifting on the educational front. (Away from the conference, however, AARC can take a deep bow for the RC Journal. It is, in my opinion, the BEST benefit for my membership dollars and worth every penny of my membership dues.)
In closing I would give a couple of tips for those thinking about going next year:
1) GO. You will have a good time and you will learn things in the vendor hall.
2) Do not necessarily fall for the conference literature suggesting that you "stay at the host hotel because it is hosting the event at a discounted rate." Book your own room at your own rate because it is possible you will have to walk to some of the sessions anyway.
3) Do not expect to get more than a few "teasers" of information from the 30-minute AARC sessions. Also, I would point out that the AARC wants an additional $215 from you if you want a copy of the power points that are used during these brief sessions.
4) Go to every breakfast meeting and every vendor class you can find. They are very informative and you will learn a lot because they offer a full class.
5) Attend one of the two offered PRE-Courses. The information is in-depth, superb, and worth the money.
6) Book early so that you qualify for every real discount you can get from the via early bird registration.
In closing, I would make one more plea to the AARC to consider allowing those students in a BSRT program at an accredited four-year college (who are already registered therapists) to be eligible for the student rate for the conference while not giving up the CEU eligibility in the process. Students who are in a bachelors program SHOULD be eligible for the student rate. I would respectfully ask AARC leadership to add this as a "new business" item for next year's business meeting.
Finally, to the AARC: I stand ready to help in any way I can to make our organization better. I will serve on any committee where there is a need, or volunteer with any project in need of my help. It truly saddens me that so many therapists are not members of the AARC.