Inspired by our resident travel Maven’s post on CME travel, I decided to attend an anesthesia conference in Puerto Rico. I figured, not only was it a great way to get some CME credits but also a good opportunity to meet up with some of the ladies from my old job who I don’t see as often. Plus, who can turn down a beach in the winter. Now that I am back home and have a few seconds to reflect, here are some experiences, travel 101 basics and CME pointers that I must share with my fellow Mavens .
Let me begin by laying out my route plan. I left LAX late Friday night and headed first for Florida 2 days prior to the start of the conference. I figured that if I was going to lay over somewhere on the east coast, I may as well visit family for a while, so I visited my parents in time for their anniversary. I then continued onto PR late Sunday evening, not getting in until 3am. This is where the first few travel 101’s come into play.
1. Patience is a virtue when traveling! This trip was delay city from start to finish. On both legs of the flight, I had delays of over an hour, if not more. At one point, we diverted to and stopped in Orlando briefly because the fog was too heavy in Fort Lauderdale to land initially. So planning important parts of your trip immediately following arrival to the destination is never a good idea. Allow some wiggle room for delays and other unforeseen events. And if you plan to attend day one of the conference, certainly don’t arrive at 3am that morning.
2. A travel outfit is a must… Planes are cold and blankets aren’t always free! Apparently JetBlue, and I’m sure other airlines, now charge $6 for a blanket, pillow and headphones combo. Yes, you may have $6 available in your purse but knowing these commodities used to be free makes me even more annoyed to pay for them now. It’s the principle of it! So I now travel in a well planned out outfit that provides comfort, ease of removal through TSA if necessary and additional warmth when the plane is cold and the guy next to you has the fans above on high!
I have found that thick leggings and a long sleeve t-shirt, paired with an over-sized cardigan or cape and comfortable sneakers, is a practical yet fashionable option. The cape or sweater can certainly double as a blanket and be slipped off upon arrival in a warmer climate. The Uniqlo Ultra Down Jackets are also a great travel item. They are warm and easily stuffable without taking up much space. And when changing climates during your travels, it’s essential to cover all of your bases. Finally, if you are a slight germ-a-phobe like myself or don’t have TSA pre-check, always pack a pair of socks in your travel bag when you have to slip off your shoes through security.
3. DVT’s and PE’s are very real! For any flight over 3 hours, I put on compression socks and pop a baby aspirin. If you’re in a crunch, grab a pair of compression socks from pre-op or PACU on your last day before departure. For significantly long flights, you will certainly notice some ankle swelling without them. It’s such a cheap preventative measure for a potentially huge and annoying problem, unless taking Coumadin is your thing.
Once I arrived in PR and settled in, I registered for the conference and got the schedule of lectures for the week. For this particular conference, the host hotel was also the location of the conference, which is not always the case. Of note, (4. Sleep well) if you’re company/institution is paying for the CME travel, know your hotel budget and decide if you have room for a hotel room upgrade or even to stay at a more desired hotel within reasonable distance of the conference. Why not take advantage of the perks available to you, without abusing the system that is. I then perused the schedule and determined which lectures were absolute must attends, which I would try make if I was available and which were not relevant to me. This is an important step in CME travel planning and brings me to the next few pointers.
5. Play well…Not on the company dime but perhaps on company time! It is a given that attendees of a conference will look to explore the conference location. Some conferences will even include tours or excursions as part of their planning and advertising. So prior to or upon arrival to the conference location, find out what are the popular destinations, tours or excursions in the area and coordinate your daily activities with the available time in your lecture schedule. I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful rain forest in PR, El Yunque, with a fun group and an amazing tour guide. The views were amazing and quickly reminded me of the beauty of this world.
6. Eat well… Again, if your CME travel is covered by your institution, there is often an allotted food budget. Take full advantage of these extra funds to find the “must go” food places in the area. Restaurants with dishes that are authentic to the locale are my favorite stops and my top recommendation for fellow Mavens to find. Ask a local or check out yelp and tripadvisor for good recommendations. If you’re ever in San Juan, PR, please make time for La Casita Blanca. The carne guisada and jugo de guayaba are insane! Of course bring cash and maybe even a Spanish speaking friend if that’s not you. And the circa 1970’s PR home decor here could not be any more perfect.
It was finally time to return home from my week of learning and living. After such an amazing time away, I felt ready to return to life as usual, get back to work and put a few of the lessons learned at the conference into practice at work. That’s really the beauty of CME travel; while you enjoy the getaway and get some personal refreshing, it’s also a great way to reinvigorate your interest in your specialty and the work you do as a Maven in Medicine. Here are a few last minute pointers for your upcoming CME travel.
7. Save your receipts. If the CME travel is covered by your institution or you are self employed and this trip is a business expense, be sure to keep track of all expenses to be submitted. This is a fairly straight forward but very important detail.
8. Don’t forget to sign in. CME credits are only awarded if you sign into the lectures or sessions that you attend. Usually, the hosts of the conference will email you a certificate at a later date with the CME credits which you then submit to your credentialing board for credit.