Oluwadamilare Akingbade is a Researcher at the Institute of Nursing Nigeria. He shares his experiences of running a virtual conference for nurses during lockdown. This post is part of the AuthorAID COVID-19 researcher story series.
I woke up on the fateful morning of 24th March, 2020 with a thought to engage nursing students in Nigeria for a week, building their competencies in research, as they were home due to the lockdown. Immediately, I communicated with my team members at the Institute of Nursing Research (INR), Nigeria on how we could achieve this. Some concerns were raised on the possibility of staging a conference of this nature at a time like this, due to palpable tension associated with the pandemic.
After much deliberation, we agreed to give it a trial. I communicated with the Nigerian Universities Nursing Students Association (NUNSA) National President, Israel Fawole, who was very excited at the idea. I have always known him to be passionate about capacity building. He was ready to work his finger to the bone on the project.
Within two weeks, we finalised the programme details and publicity began. The theme agreed on was 'Building the Competencies of the 21st Century Nurse in Research and Scholarly Activities'. We had 14 speakers from five countries for the week-long virtual event, which was held via Zoom and WhatsApp platforms. The seven-day conference lasted from Sunday 10th May to Saturday, 16th May, 2020.
The conference preparation was hectic for me, as I had to combine the preparation for my session titled 'Publish and Flourish: The A-Z of Writing for Publication' with other administrative tasks in ensuring the programme was hitch-free. The support of leaders from INR, Nigeria and NUNSA officials that formed the Local Organizing Committee was massive as they ensured all i's were dotted and all t's crossed.
The conference was not without challenges such as an unstable internet connection among others. All were surmounted. The 278 participants from five countries completed pre- and post-tests, after which certificates of participation were issued. One of the participants had this to say after the conference:
“My whole week, I don't want it to end. It has been explosive, impactful, enlightening, data consuming but data worthy. I travelled outside Nigeria in this COVID-19 era. I'm back to Nigeria now. Thank you INR and NUNSA. Greater Heights.”
It was really fulfilling, learning and ‘travelling all around the world’ from the comfort of our rooms amid the COVID-19 lockdown.