I do love a good conference. I even used to have a designated conference buddy. We had a superb routine… North America, Europe, UK… we took immense pleasure in a well planned conference trip. Though I’m without a partner in crime for this adventure – the EPIQ Conference, 2019 in Toronto, ON has been quite something. What a humbling and motivating experience. I’ll tell you a little about it. And tell you that the 2020 conference is in Banff, Canada in February – not a bad option if you’re intrigued by this post!
The injection of enthusiasm, the infectious can-do attitude, the pro-activity have all particularly spoken to me on this element of my Churchill Fellowship travels. Over several days this conference recapped key principles and findings of the EPIQ QI programmes and research (see some of my other posts…), tantalised with novel ideas for improving care in level III NICUs (those looking after the smallest, sickest infants), and reported back to delegates on successes – and failures – of projects. I highlight that projects which were NOT overwhelming success stories, or that had gained traction but relapsed after some time, were openly presented and welcomed. Too often our biases to sharing success, positive changes and happy news mean that powerful lessons and opportunities to share from what isn’t working are lost to us. Not the case here.
That being said – many projects had rewardingly seen positive impacts on care of vulnerable babies and their families. The “elevator pitches” of these individual projects from units all over the country were quite the sight to behold. From a video adaptation of Frozen’s “Let it go”, to an audience participation N-I-C-U track to the melody of Y-M-C-A, teams from units of every province gave a 1-minute taster of their poster presentation to follow. I embraced it. Projects had followed the EPIQ 10 step improvement methodology to greater or lesser degrees but all embodied the spirit of the programme. Themes covered Reduction of nosocomial infection, NEC prevention (necrotising enterocolitis), Resuscitation and more prolonged stabilisation of preterm babies at mother’s side, and strategies for Antenatal corticosteroid stewardship (improving the timing of this key intervention) with the memorable tag #NoStaleSteroids.
I’ll speak more on the results, the outcomes, the materials later. For the moment I want to bathe in the atmosphere. Everyone here was unified in working – hard – to improve neonatal care. This crowd have “drunk the Kool Aid” to borrow a phrase and they seem to like it. Long time locals, recent arrivals to the Canadian health system, allied professionals, experienced attending Neonatologists, medical students, parents… this was one of the most unified gatherings of diverse stakeholders I’ve had the pleasure to become a part of.
We heard from families too. Their poignant descriptions of care they did, and did not on occasion, receive made the subject matter all the more tangible. Emotional recollections of their experiences as parents of extremely preterm babies served only as further motivation for the conference team to make their ongoing participation in this work, and the conferences themselves, increasingly meaningful. Hats off to those parents, very seriously, who bravely and openly gave us their time and tales with which to empathise.