DFTB17 – A Conference I Won’t Forget

Author: Nikki Abela / Codes: / Published: 01/09/2017


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As soon as I found out that the Don’t Forget the Bubbles team were organising a conference, I wanted to go to it.

As a PEM trainee, with a flair for education and FOAMed – a conference held by one of the best global PEM FOAMed sites promised to really hit the sweet spot for me.

But when I asked for my whole CPD for this year to be spent on this one thing, the sound advice I got was, “You could spend it on just the one thing, but it would be more justifiable if you were going to do something there.”

After a few weeks, and after one of the DFTB editors cross-referenced my blog in an article, I summoned up the courage to ask the organisers if “I could help with anything there”.

Fast forward to the last few days, when stood on the grey edges of my comfort zone to give a talk at the sold-out conference, formed part of a panel of EBM experts to discuss papers and twitter moderated and chaired a session, I can say that I did quite a lot of “something”.

But the truth is there is a lot more we can get out of everything, if only we put ourselves out there, look for the opportunities and be ready to work outside the comfort zone we are used to.

This is not only true for the story of how I got to be at the conference, but even how we deal with difficult patients, as Natalie May explained at #DFTB17. If we challenge ourselves to “not accept” they are “just being difficult”, but to ask “why” and think of ways to mitigate their problems – sometimes we may find paediatric solutions to adult-patient problems.

For example, if a patient is refusing a cannula, think about how you would go about the problem if this was a child – ametop, IN analgesia and ondansetron melts all spring to mind about perfectly accepted ways of solving this problem in children, so why don’t we think outside the box for adults too?



And if we get think outside the box for adults, why are we still thinking the same way for children with (dis)abilities? We still use (very hurtful) words like dysmporphic and not compatible with life, but as mother of a child with a rare chromosomal abnormality, Rachel Callander, pointed out to us at #DFTB17, I loved her special button nose.. and she was compatible with life, just not for as long as we would have liked.

Sometimes, the words we use can hurt, and the mentality they create can change both emotions and actions both ours and our patients. For example, when we label someone’s practise as “expert” and “perfect” we create this image of “excellent paediatric care” which is unachievable for us, forgetting that what is truly excellent is what the child, the patient, believes to be excellent- irrespective of how many papers we may have published, Ross Fisher reminded us.

Ross Fisher’s “elevator pitch” from the conference (taken from his twitter feed)

So even when we dress up in the morning, are we true to the part we want to play? Henry Goldstein told us how dressing up in a suit in the run up for his exam helped him because sometimes dressing for the part can influence how you behave .. changing your mindset!

Now I’m not saying that we should all dress to the nines for work, and that those in jeans have less to say than those in suits, but find what works for you and employ your mind to get out of that routine.

For example, listen to that upper airway sound: is it stertor or stridor, is it monophasic or biphasic? It may be croup most of the time, but that is until it isn’t, as Eric Levi reminded us.

And the same goes for “it’s probably viral” – it will be most of the time because the odds are in your favour, Arj Rao told us, but you don’t want to miss the child with sepsis, so be vigilant in your diagnostics and observe them if you need to.


And it’s not just your patients who deserve to be observed, but also what is going on around you. Look at how you interact with your colleagues, live in the moment and be compassionate.

Our colleagues are our work friends, and the way we interact improves our clinical environment, and therefore our mood, and this trickles down to patient care, Mary Freer, creator of the compassion lab pointed out.

But more than that, put yourself out there to appreciate more what you do, make the most out of what you are doing and appreciate your friendships to enhance everybody’s output from them.

This could be speaking at a conference you were simply planning on going to, or enjoying everyday at work, to making our environments better for learning, working, treating and living. It is up to you where you want to enhance your output and you may be surprised what you will get in return.

It could be something simple like a coffee or “thank you” from a patient, or it may even be a video of support from some awesome colleagues spread around the world to convey their belief in you and for you to present in your talk.


This blog could never do justice to all the take home messages from #DFTB17. We have managed to record a few interviews with some presenters after the conference which we will be releasing in podcast episodes and the DFTB team will also be releasing the live-recorded talks in due course.


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