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NETworking in Healthcare Education

04 Feb 2019 | Andrew Melling Andrew Melling is a Reader in Adult Nursing within the Department of Healthcare at Northumbria University. Here he discusses his experience attending the NET conference.

Andrew Melling is a Reader in Adult Nursing within the Department of Healthcare and Director of Technology Enhanced and Online Learning across the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Northumbria University. Here he discusses his experience attending the NET conference.


September for me means the end of the holiday period and a time to start going through the gears in preparation for the return of students to University. At this time of year I look forward to one event in particular, my annual trip to Advance HE’s NET conference.  The conference is a great source of inspiration and provides time to think and reflect on how I can enhance the teaching provision in my institution.

For those in health education who haven’t attended a NET Conference, the question is: Why not? NET is short for Networking for Education in Healthcare, with an emphasis on NETworking. Annually for the last 29 years educators in healthcare from across the globe have come together to share research results, innovations, new ideas and of course network. 

I am, myself, a recent convert to the NET conference as despite working in the University sector for over ten years I have only attended the last few events. What I find unique about the conference is the emphasis on support and collaborative discussion.  Themed sessions are facilitated by convenors who genuinely try to generate an ongoing conversation throughout the presentations and engage all presenters and the audience in specific, thoughtful and insightful debate. The conference lacks that ‘one-upmanship’ that abounds at many scientific conferences. That’s not to say there isn’t high-quality research being presented, there is, but everything is geared towards learning from each other, developing networks and friendships. This element, in combination with some excellent key-note presentations, a truly international audience and some great grub and social events make the NET Conference a real gem.

The 2018 conference was once again held at Churchill College, Cambridge University. This is a lovely setting and although we didn’t have the same glorious sunshine of September 2017, the quality and the content of the conference more than made up for that. At the start of each day the excellent keynote speakers set the agenda and the themes of their presentations continually re-emerged throughout the conference. We were reminded about the big changes in population health, healthcare delivery and the actual and potential benefits of technology. Amongst all this change and development we were charged with developing future healthcare practitioners who could still practice individual care but also engage in a digital society, see the bigger picture and influence change on a macro level. 

I particularly enjoyed a couple of presentations from clinicians who were using simulation and technology in the clinical setting, rather than the classroom. These sessions were very practical, they appeared to enhance the student experience and improve outcomes, all of which was very inspiring for those in the audience.  This year there were also some excellent examples of students involved in educational developments acting as co-workers and co-researchers. There was also a big emphasis on the benefits of peer learning, something we know works, but often don’t factor into our teaching. 

I left NET 2018 exhausted but also engaged, inspired and enthused and with several new network links (I think that’s the professional way of saying new friends in the HE sector). 



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