Conference update

So, what a great autumn conference the VRA held this year.  For those of you who were there with me I hope that you agree that it was so great to meet everyone in 3D as it feels like an age since we last did that.  Well lets face it – it was an age.  It took some deliberation as to whether we should do it online and the moment we were in the Gherkin I knew that we had made the right choice.

So for those of you who weren’t able to make it, and we really hope you can next time, I thought I’d pen a brief summary and for those of you who were there I hope it is as you remember it too!

So, we kicked off the afternoon with a great session led by Christine Parker on ‘Developing the reflexivity habit’.  She shared her wisdom on all things supervision and learning.  Here are a few of her top tips:  regularly pause and reflect on your practise, seek out supervision and take a patient, service, business and client focus during supervision enabling a whole approach to the reflection process.  Check out your professional guidance on supervision or alternatively look at the HCPC guidelines as a good starting point. When finding a supervisor, find someone you can be open with and whom you can trust to talk freely.  Take time to find the right person if the first person is not quite what you need – it will pay dividends in learning and emotional experience. Look at both the positive and the negative in your actions and take learning from both.  Finally, don’t forget the weather.  For those of you there – you’ve got the slide 😊

Next up was Angela Kerr representing the Institute of Registered Case Managers.  The IRCM is going great guns to professionalise case management and ensure that good guidance is in place for those working as case managers, protecting both them and the people they serve.  Angela talked us through the importance of having standards of practice to follow and advised us to look out for the new competency framework and standards documents that will underpin membership of the organisation.  Expect registration under the grandparenting scheme to start soon for experienced case managers.  For more info on the IRCM please check out their website for their next update session.

Following Angela, we had Emma Smith talking to us about ‘understanding resilience – what it means and tools to support it’.   She reminded us of the unique and individual experience that is stress and to focus on what resilience is for ourselves.  She immersed us in practical exercises to engage in reflection and to work out our needs and what helps us.  Key was the focus on what we love doing to give us energy and to help us to find our ‘resilience tribe’.  I heard wonderful resonance around the room at the point where she showed us the five types of tribe we can connect with. We could all find someone who was our safe ear, energy giver, logical thinker, reassurer and delegatee… again lots of snappings of this slide. For the eagle-eyed of you, you can pick it up on twitter.

Finally and definitely not least, we had a session on culture and pain led by Mohammad Shoiab.  He urged us to ensure that we understand our patient’s backgrounds, using an iceberg metaphor to explore our understanding of what culture is.    He enabled us to reflect on what culture actually is and not just what we see at a surface level. He reminded us that pain is perceived differently across cultures and to consider the social determinants of pain, collectivistic culture and the differences between northern and southern hemispheres peoples.  Linking back to Chris’s talk he too reminded us to go back to HCPC guidelines and review the standards of proficiency which next year will have a firm focus on EDI.  Reference to the NICE guidelines on pain was also made and to understand the systematic differences in health in different groups of people.  One quote particularly resonates with me ‘Understanding difference will make a difference’ Fletcher (2006).

Mark Howard helped bring the conference themes together during our panel discussion and lively debate and conversation was had between panel members and also questions from the floor.  It was a great end to a fabulous conference.

In summary, our theme was ‘being the best you can be’ in practice and we focussed on looking after yourself professionally, clinically and personally as well as looking after others focusing on attitudes, beliefs and looking through the lens of culture.

It was lovely to hear the hubbub of conversation and chat during the break out sessions and during the networking event at the end of the conference.  Old friends were greeted with hugs and new connections were made.  It was great to be part of the collective of Vocational Rehabilitation Practitioners.   The mission next time:  To bring along a friend and create even greater connections and lively discussion!

Many thanks to our sponsors Form Health, Swiss Re and Thriiver, and to our fabulous speakers:   Emma Smith CMCIPDMohammad ShoiabChristine Parker and Angela Kerr. Thanks also to our panel session chair Mark Howard MSc, PVRA.

My thanks also goes out to our VRA conference team who created this fantastic event. So that’s it till next time… but in the meantime don’t forget we have a great programme of online CPD – take a look at our events listing for VRA events and others.