ASPE Conference 1st Time Attendee Reflections

By Mark J. Fisher

Eager to Learn
As a first-time attendee at the ASPE conference, I was eager to learn as much as I could about standardized patients (SPs) and how they are being used in research and education. Practically everything related to SPs was new to me so I made sure to attend the opening keynote session presented by Dr. George T. (Tobias) Miller. The comprehensive amount of information he provided was visually stunning through his adept use of Prezi. In a few short minutes, the audience travelled through a carefully detailed history of standardized patients dating back to about 1400 BC! I quickly felt I was no longer an uninformed and inexperienced first time attendee. I was now educated about SP history, enthused about the next set of sessions, and an invigorated first-time attendee.

Stimulating Sessions
Several sessions and workshops attended turned into a number of coffee-break conversations leading to burgeoning plans for a research project and an education project. By discipline, I am a Registered Nurse, but during the ASPE conference I was a nurse whose professional blinders were removed. I was in the midst of like-minded and enthusiastic researchers, learners, educators, and change agents. I had found a new home. Evenings allowed me to rest quietly in my room in preparation for the next day . . . not really; often evenings led to a number of stimulating collegial conversations with former colleagues and new contacts. The remaining days were filled with more stimulating sessions, participation through facilitation of two sessions, presentation of my poster with a colleague (the official reason I was in attendance), and gathering of more information. I was enthralled by Dr. Karen Szauter’s utterly amazing review of SP literature for 2011 at the end of the conference. It neatly wrapped up my first ASPE experience even before the conference ended. The entire process generated many new ideas.

Phenomenal History of SPs
From the beginning with Dr. Miller’s overview of SP history and ending with a thoroughly engaging presentation that provided a synopsis of SP literature for 2011, who could ask for more? I had little understanding of the field of SP research and education before the conference. I left with a great deal of understanding, rich with resources, that generated a number of ideas and research project seeds that I will plant with great anticipation of their full development in the months and years ahead.

Charge to Potential First-time Attendees
What would I say to someone who plans to attend the ASPE annual conference for the first time? Bring your knowledge, your openness to learn and meet new colleagues, be prepared to share, and be a part of the science of SP research and education as it unfolds in front of you. Maybe you too will feel as if you have ‘found a new home’.