This blog might seem obscure to almost all of my readers except those like me who attended this week’s British Geriatric Society (BGS) Conference, I will explain.
It was, as with most educational events these days online. I sat in my office at home and tuned-in.
Nothing particularly surprising or unusual about that.
The thing for me, and what I want to discuss is how the event made me feel. After all, this website is all about almonds and emotions.
Feelings, education, Geriatrics? You might ask, what is going-on?
This event, and on other occasions when I have attended similar events I have been left feeling low. A little hollow or disappointed, mostly at myself.
I believe this situation stems from an intense period of exposure to some very talented and successful people (aka professors) who, for the most, are portraying and showing-off their ‘best selves’ – this makes the experience not dissimilar to the feelings some of us experience when pulled-into Facebook.
Sure, on FB, some people tell you how awful they are feeling, perhaps at life in general, through the struggles with their own emotional demons, at other times, following the death of a much-loved grandfather, usually accompanied by return snippets of ‘thinking of you’ or appropriate emojis (with some accidental thumbs up – meaning I imagine, ‘I’m with you buddy’ rather than, ‘That’s great’.
It is well established that FB can have a detrimental effect on individual’s sense of self, their perception that everyone else in the world is having a party and you are, well, alone, on your phone. (Appreciate young people when out and about doing things are also often on FB, in a hyper-real metaverse).
And so, the conference.
For the most, this was people showing-off their successes, how many older people they had saved from peril (mostly keeping them out of hospital), how many standard deviations from the mean their intervention had generated and so on.
I even ran a slot – I will post it here for anyone interested.
I am as guilty as the rest, as I was a blowing my own trumpet about some of the stuff I have done.
Looking back, the only conference where I have felt at home have been the ‘Risky Business’ events run out of Great Ormond Street. These tend to present people describing high-risk or perilous moments and experiences, it borrows examples of risk and safety from industries and professions outside medicine or healthcare for shared learning – you can see some of the talks here.
The ones that stand-out for me was the boss of BP talking about Piper-Alpha and the woman who fell from The Screamer at Alton Towers and, of course Martin Bromiley.
Now, I don’t suggest that these conferences should be entirely populated by people describing their experiences of failure, it might help redress what I perceive is an imbalance between a Candide demonstration of perfection with an expose into the difficulties of others, a humanisation of academia if you like – nothing salacious, perhaps some grit.
Reflecting on the conference it was I think, sitting with my dogs by my side, early on Saturday morning, rain battering the windows, a positive experience, not least because of one of the final speakers, Professor Mark Edwards from London who gave a thoroughly person-centred and compassionate talk about FND – Functional Neurological Disorders.
Professor Mark provided a philosophical, psychological and neurological interpretation of this group of conditions, described (I think poorly) in the book ‘It’s All in Your Head’ – Freud called them hysteria, suggesting they are a particularly womanly phenomenon – not true; through to the increasingly frequency of these medically unexplained symptoms described as functional (i.e. the body part – they eye, ear, hand, foot is intact yet it is unable to function – the eye looks like the eye of a seeing person although the functionally blind person cannot see.)
What will I do next time?
Well, it is considered part of ‘Good Medical Practice’ according to the General Medical Council for doctors to maintain their knowledge, to stay up to date with modern trends and developments, this means I will be back, I might seek-out the talks that are prefaced with ‘I tried but I failed,’ or, ‘It was harder than I thought’ rather than ‘101 ways to improve the blood pressure of ageing rats’
Thanks for reading & have a good weekend!
PS the ’15 points’ refers to the 15 Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points awarded by my attendance at the conference – usually 1 point equals and hour of CPD. You need at least 50 a year to be considered keeping up-to-date. From this perspective it was worth it.