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Thinking about joining IHI and your fellow students at the 2017 IHI National Forum? Forum veteran Sarah Miano, RN, offers some tips for students.
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10 Tips to Master the IHI National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care

By IHI Open School | Monday, October 5, 2015
The 2017 IHI National Forum is around the corner. How can you make the most of this epic event, which draws some 6,000 health care leaders to Orlando, FL, in pursuit of new ideas, new friendships, and new energy? We asked Open School learner Sarah Miano, RN, who has attended three Forums, to share her tips on mastering the Forum — from newbies to veterans, and from students to professionals. 

1. Definitely go to the Forum! You’ll be exposed to so many interesting quality improvement initiatives and people from all areas of health care. You’ll feel like the energy at the Forum is recharging your batteries!

IHI National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care
2. Find a deal on hotels. I have found budget-friendly hotel prices by booking online. Another tip: book a hotel that’s on the free bus loop! IHI provides shuttle buses from some nearby hotels to the main conference center. They run on a regular schedule and make it very easy to get to and from the conference.

3. Save on transportation from the airport. I’ve had good success with Mears Transportation. You can even get a shuttle from the airport to Forum hotels at a discounted price. If you’re staying through the end of the conference, there’s a free bus that will take you back to the Orlando Airport (MCO). (And if you don’t want to haul your luggage around with you on the last day, you can check it at the World Center Marriott’s concierge desk!)

4. Bring some business cards. You’re going to meet some pretty remarkable people at the Forum, so come prepared to network! If you’re an introvert like me, this step can feel intimidating, but it is well worth it.

5. Network, network, network. The first year I went to the Forum, I went with a group of medical and nursing students from my Open School Chapter (which was great fun!). In later years, I made the trip solo, and have found that there are built-in opportunities to find people with your interests at the Forum

For students and faculty, a good way to start is the IHI Open School Chapter Congress! The Congress takes place the night before the Forum kick-off. It’s a great way to meet other students, residents, Chapter Leaders, and Faculty Advisors, not to mention the incredible leadership team at IHI (including Don Berwick!). Your business cards will come in handy as ideas for QI projects and Chapter events flow! Other opportunities for networking include the Student and Resident Lounge — plan to bring your lunch there and meet up with other Open School folks from around the world. Check out posters at the storyboard sessions (you can map out the posters you find particularly interesting or just wander through the gallery. Either way, you’re going to meet people who are energized about improving health and health care). Feel encouraged to talk to presenters at the end of breakout sessions. In my experience, they are eager to talk to students and clinicians in the early stages of their careers. Another good opportunity to break out those business cards!

6. Pick sessions in advance, but keep an open mind once you get to the Forum. There are so many sessions, you’ll want to map out the topics that are most interesting to you. IHI has made this process a little less overwhelming by suggesting a Student Track, which can be especially helpful if you’re new to quality improvement or the Forum. But there are also interesting sessions that fall under other categories like person- and family-centered care, leadership, and Triple Aim, so don’t feel like you have to stick to the Student Track alone! And know that you’re not locked in to your pre-conference selections: I’ve come across sessions that weren’t originally on my radar, so it’s good to keep an open mind. It’s also okay to give yourself some down time, by hanging out in one of the lounges, or perusing the onsite bookstore and exhibits.

7. Bring some cool-weather clothes. I know it’s Florida, and coming from a cold-weather climate like Ohio, it felt wonderfully warm in December, but it’s not a bad idea to bring some layers. At the very least, you may want a sweater or light jacket in the conference center. Another note on attire: I’ve typically worn business casual, but dressed up for the Open School Chapter Congress or when I’m presenting a poster (i.e. broke out the jacket, blouse, and hosiery).

8. Connect with your Regional Leader. Your Open School Regional Leaders are great resources to you during the Forum and, believe me, would absolutely love to meet you in person! Shoot them an email to let them know you’ll be at the Forum and meet up. Often Regional Leaders will coordinate a time for Chapters to meet and greet, so feel free to ask them if that’s in the works.

9. Plan ahead for your “real-world” commitments. The Forum falls around the end-of-term rush, but don’t let that deter you. It’s manageable to do both! My best advice is to plan ahead and let professors or clinical preceptors know that you’re going to the Forum and plan to have work turned in early. That way, you’re not stressing about them while you’re in Orlando! 

10. Plan to regroup with your Chapter after the Forum. You’re going to feel re-energized after the Forum, so the best way to capitalize on that will be to talk with people in your Chapter, school, and clinical setting soon after getting back from Florida. It doesn’t have to be a formal presentation of what you learned, but maybe a conversation over coffee about how you can take some of the knowledge you gained and apply it back at home. Then think about what type of storyboard you can submit to the Forum next year!

Learn more about Open School Regional Leaders here, and we hope to see you at the Forum! Have more tips for Forum newbies? Share your tips in the comments.

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