The New York state organization of The Nurse Practitioner Association is hosting its 31st annual conference this weekend at the Conference and Events Center Niagara Falls. About 200 NPs attended a pre-conference Wednesday and Thursday, and 460 NPs are scheduled to attend the main conference Friday through Sunday. Attendees will be staying as guests of the Sheraton at the Falls hotel on Third Street.

This annual conference, held in Saratoga Springs for the past four years, is an opportunity for NPs in the association to earn up to 33 hours of their required continuing education, according to Stephen Ferrara executive director of NPA. The conference is already set to be held in Niagara Falls for the 2016 fall event, with an expected average attendance of 450 to 550 members.

The purpose of the event is to “provide continuing education opportunities for NPs with a focus on primary care and mental health,” Ferrara said, as well as other top health issues in the nation. It’s a chance for these health professionals to learn about new medication, treatment methods, research and findings across the health board and the latest technologies available to best serve patients and produce positive outcomes for them, he said.

There will be a total of 80 sessions offered over the five-day event, with six or seven sessions being offered at a time throughout the day, Friday through Sunday. The sessions will be taught by experts in their respective fields from New York and beyond, the director said. Topics discussed at the conference will cover a wide range of issues including, schizophrenia, migraines, addiction, heart-related illnesses, infections, food intolerance, ethics, best practices and more.

One of the opening speakers for the conference was Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, recently appointed deputy surgeon general. (Until Sept. 30 she served as chief nursing officer.) Trent-Adams, an NP herself, said these men and women are on the “front lines” of the health field and that it’s important to meet up like this.

“It is critical to share data and experiences, to gather, convene and collaborate,” she said. She said conferences like these are important for “creating change” and generating “ideas to improve” health care services, as well as for continued education and training and networking with other NPs practicing in the state. 

Trent-Adams called NPs to lead in the cultural change to a healthier nation. She said “health equality is a civil rights issue” and that “it shouldn’t matter where you live, work or play ... or what you look like” to have health care in the U.S. She announced that over the next two years, the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service will focus on violence against women and have already begun to launch campaigns. They have already amassed “non-traditional” public and private partners; there is a surgeon general’s playlist on Pandora for folks to listen to as they walk for exercise, for example. Additional focus will be placed on the prevention of prescription and opioid drug abuse and addiction, specifically looking for alternative treatments to the drugs. 

“NPs can impact the community directly,” she said. “... you are real game changers.”

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