What's the value of in person conferences? An early career researcher reflects

Posted 2022.11.30

Building capacity in health services and social care research is one of HSR UK’s core aims. One way we do this is through our Future Leaders in Health Services Research Awards, supported by Elsevier and the International Journal of Nursing Studies (IJNS). These are awarded for well-presented and rigorous research presented at the annual HSR UK conference. As we launch the call for abstract submissions for HSR UK 2023 in Birmingham, Future Leaders award winner Caitlin Wilson shares her perspective on the value of face-to-face conferences and being recognised for her research.

Face-to-face conferences are my absolute highlight as a PhD student. I started my PhD with the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (https://yhpstrc.org/) at the end of 2019 – so shortly before the pandemic threw a massive spanner in the works regarding these type of events. Of course, I’ve participated and enjoyed many online training courses and events, such as the HSR UK Conference 2021 (https://hsruk.org/conference/conference-2021), but nothing quite beats the buzz and excitement of a face-to-face conference…. And attending my first face-to-face HSR UK Conference in July 2022 certainly provided that buzz and excitement! The programme was well-rounded and interesting, with excellent and engaging speakers throughout. Everyone seemed so approachable, and I was able to have some enriching conversations with many speakers following their talks.

My own presentation on ‘Developing an initial programme theory of prehospital feedback in an ambulance service setting: A mixed-methods study’ was situated within the ‘Prehospital Healthcare Theme’. As a paramedic and a PhD student being selected to present at such a prestige health services research conference did feel a little daunting at first. However, having my talk situated within this session amongst presenters I already knew from other conferences really helped me feel comfortable in advance of the event and I would definitely encourage other early career researchers to take a leap of faith and submit an abstract for future HSR UK conferences – who knows, you may be selected to present and even win an award!

The research I presented combines a couple of my PhD studies, which are all aimed at further understanding the concept of prehospital feedback. In other healthcare settings, the effectiveness of feedback in changing professional behaviour and improving clinical performance has been demonstrated but so far the evidence within ambulance services is very limited. There is a risk that without a firmer evidence base, development in practice relies on isolated case studies and anecdotal reports with no clear evaluative framework, so we conducted a review of current practice to understand how UK ambulance services are currently meeting the challenge of providing prehospital feedback. We used a realist evaluation framework to undertake this study so were also aiming to generate an explanatory programme theory to explain more generally how, why and for whom feedback works in the ambulance service setting. For more details on how we conducted the study and what our programme theory looks like, please watch my HSR UK conference 2022 presentation (https://youtu.be/xnSXkq31yZ8) or contact me on Twitter if you want to hear more (@999_Caitlin).

If you'd like to submit your work for consideration at HSR UK 2023 then go to the conference website at https://www.eventsforce.net/hsruk2023 - submissions close at midday on 16th January 2023.