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Preparing for Conferences: A Conversation With Your Limbic System

Next week, nearly 600 of you will be packing to travel to NANT 13. As you’re packing, I want you to consider something (exhibitors included).

You will encounter colleagues and companies at this event that seem like they have it all together. You won’t believe ‘how much support’ some hospitals provide to their neonatal therapy teams, how large some of those teams are, or how many initiatives the person you meet at lunch has implemented since last year.

If left unchecked, your limbic system may begin to tell you a story about how you’re not measuring up, not working hard enough, don’t know enough, or will never catch up. That is the opposite of the experience we’ve planned for you.

We want you to feel supported, invigorated, and relaxed.

NANT Conferences are designed to cultivate learning, research, connection, and community. We’ve spoken over and over about how no one has ‘arrived’ – not even those NICUs that ‘have everything’. We are all on a journey and benefit from the experiences and perspectives of each person we meet. We do not believe in or encourage elitist attitudes.

If you’re an incredibly accomplished clinician and/or researcher, we encourage you teach and mentor others while being open to their feedback. If you’re a student, soak it all up and reflect on what draws you to this specialty and the professionals who are growing it – what interests you most? If you’re new to the specialty of neonatal therapy, we hope you ask 100 questions about best next steps and possible priorities on your path. If you discover an area in which your unit can improve, there’s no reason to be ashamed or self-critical. Instead, be curious, be on a mission to bring 1 new idea or project back and confirm the evidence to support it. Be on purpose.

So, while you’re packing tell your amygdala something like this:

“Hey, you may get triggered by some stuff, but just so you know, I’m not going to take the bait. Instead, I’m going to ask questions, seek out the support I really need, learn from speakers, attendees, and exhibitors, teach others whatever I can, and be unafraid to admit I don’t know something (even if I have 30 years of experience). I am going to embrace progress over perfection. You can come along for the ride, but you are not in charge.”

If we do not see ourselves in each other, we’ve missed the mark. Be who you are where you are at this moment. That’s more than enough.