It was apparent right from the start. #smaccDUB had taken over Dublin. The banners at the International airport heralded a welcome to the FOAM community and set the atmosphere for the week ahead. If you are at SMACC you will be included into this world. You will connect!
This was my fourth SMACC conference. SMACC has dramatically influenced the way I see myself as an Intensivist. It has completely changed the way I interact with my registrars and made the possibility of asynchronous learning a reality. I have emerged from a world dominated by Humpty Dumpty and Dr Seuss, thanks to being the Mum of two delightful little things, to rediscovering my passion for critical care medicine. I have changed the way I teach, the way I interact with patients and the way I learn. Following the Chicago conference, I teamed up with The Bottom Line (online journal critique forum), and now make a regular contribution to the FOAM community. Teaching and presenting at SMACC has presented a challenge to achieve a standard that is incredibly high – the innovation and creativity of those presenting at SMACC is a force to be reckoned with.
‘In Dublin’s fair city, where girls are so pretty….’ My colleague John Gatward and I were in the Temple Bar region on our first night. We were amused by those performing Irish jigs, spilling onto the cobbled streets, the street musicians and the groups of women stumbling along through the cobbles with their stilettos teetering precariously. Across the way, we spotted Ashley Leibig and Jesse Spurr. You see, I had only met these guys at SMACC last year but because of the way you connect through social media it was like you were seeing long lost friends. We were soon joined by Simon Carley and the catch up from the last year began.
The River Liffey provided a wonderful centrepiece for the #SMACCrun. It was beautifully coordinated by Jesse Spurr and Nat May and allowed a release of energy before the conference. Duncan Chambler and I represented The Bottom Line, proving that we don’t just read journal articles for fun. Similarly #SMACCyoga allowed some reflective time with fellow colleagues, reinforcing the need to care for your mind and body when working in the stressful critical care world.
I was fortunate enough to be an instructor at the Cadaveric pre-conference workshop. 10 wonderful people from the USA had donated their bodies to science and working in small groups we were able to perfect the skills we perform on the living, over and over again: intraosseous insertions, thoracotomies, tracheostomies, intubations, central line insertions etc. etc.
My office is sandwiched between those of 2 of the 3 SMACC convenors (Roger and Oli). I have witnessed the evolution of SMACC over 4 years and am constantly in awe of the time and enthusiasm these guys invest to making this an amazing event. They often pop into my office to tell me of the latest great idea they have, so I had a huge anticipation for the opening ceremony. I loved the way that SMACC embraces the new and innovative. There was not one leprechaun or River Dancer to be seen in the superb opening event.
As always the talks were diverse and covered the issues that we actually deal with each day. There is avoidance of obscure scientific facts, with a strict understanding that communication with each other, patients and families is so much more important than the interleukin-463 level. There were so many inspirational talks. The ones that resonated particularly strongly included Michelle Johnston’s exploration of the dystopian world of critical care – even small decisions should be made as if for all of humanity not just for yourself. The words of Liz Crowe always resonate strongly with me. Her presentation clarified why I love my work; the overlap of profession, mission and passion. An important concept to reflect upon.
Leadership by women in critical care was heavily explored. The glass ceiling or sticky floor, the culture of timidity and the idea of flexible work practice to allow parents to be great doctors and great parents, were examined by the likes of Karin Amrein and Resa Lewis. 12/32 keynote speakers at SMACC were women making this unlike any other critical care conference I’ve attended.
I reflect back to Paul Young and Flavia Machado’s session. Nerdily I sat in the front row with Steve Mathieu and Duncan Chambler as the top 10 critical care papers from the last year were discussed. We were overjoyed to find that The Bottom Line had reviewed 8/10 of these papers.
The four concurrent sessions mean you were spoilt for choice and you were often torn between which to attend. You felt profoundly disappointed when you saw the stream of twitter adoration for the sessions you were not in.
Finally, the partying deserves a mention. The gala night involved an invasion of the Guinness Storehouse. The room glittered as 2000 people let their hair down to the tunes of the wonderful band from London and the pulsating vibe of the DJ from Manchester. Gracie Leo did an outstanding job of regulating the surge of participants in #FOAMaoke as everybody was keen for their voice to be heard.
#dasSMACC is next. I cannot wait!