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PMG Conference 2016: Communication aids, environmental controls and other hot topics!

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Samantha Micklewright

Trainee Clinical Engineer


13 January 2017


As a trainee clinical engineer (Scientist Training Programme) in Salisbury, specialising in rehabilitation, I have had my eye on the PMG Conference for the past few years. The nature of the training scheme means that I have only recently gained experience in the posture and mobility field, making last year the perfect time to attend. Despite the continuing growth and achievements made in the clinical engineering field, so many people still have no idea who we are or what we do. The trouble is, I often find it difficult to explain it myself – luckily there is another year of training to go!

My conference experience started well – the venue was a fantastic setup and the friendly security staff were waiting to get me to the registration desk. For the next three days, I encountered nothing but welcoming and enthusiastic delegates who wanted to share their experience and knowledge to improve the field of posture and mobility.

The speed networking event was daunting but informative. I was surrounded by experts in the field who wanted to promote good practice and discuss complex clinical cases to ensure they were able to do the best for their clients.

On the social side of the event, the Caribbean Welcome Event and Gala Dinner were perfect opportunities to enjoy some relaxation, whilst meeting more delegates and participating in robust conversations about the opportunities and challenges facing the profession.  

The time allocated for exploring the exhibition was ideal, as the stands were so informative it was difficult to get round more than a handful in each break, but I think I reached almost everyone by the end! Having the opportunity to see and try a variety of equipment, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses, has already been of great value back in Salisbury. Now, with the knowledge of a wider range of solutions, I can think outside the box and suggest possible alternatives which may improve the final outcome for clients. [I have also since been to visit a local design and manufacturing company, and hope we can have a productive relationship in the future].

Then there were the conference proceedings – the main event! The innovation and enthusiasm for development shone through in many of the talks I attended, such as 3D printing applications and improvements on how we measure the outcomes of our interventions. Also, using technology to improve these outcomes, such as the use of virtual reality and movement sensors, is something I would love to get involved with.

Trying to choose which parallel session to attend was made easier in the afternoon by rumours of particularly interesting sessions from those who attended different sessions in the morning. The team from Access to Communication and Technology in Birmingham gave an excellent overview of the integration of assistive technology to wheelchairs, including communication aids, environmental controls and computer access methods. Seeing examples of the wide range of options available to allow a wheelchair user greater independence furthered my interest in this area, which had already been initiated by a visit to Bristol Centre for Enablement in 2015.

The free paper presentation by Hannah Griffiths from Chailey Clinical Services was unexpectedly challenging, drawing attention to a significant issue which we must overcome in the near future. Hannah (picture above) highlighted that there is currently a grey area over the provision and commissioning of communication aids and control systems which, as a community, we can improve through sharing knowledge and forming a focus group. I hope that this develops, and that I may be able to get involved in the future.

A common theme throughout the conference helped me to appreciate the difficult balance between finances and providing the best possible care, how efficient use of resources can help this, and reiterating the importance of keeping the International Classification for Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework in mind for all decision making.

I am in the process of completing the three year clinical engineering training scheme to allow me to form a career being both an engineer and clinician, and hopefully using my engineering background to improve patient outcomes and make a difference. On the scheme it can be easy to forget the main aim by getting caught up in all the competencies, projects and work for the Masters degree with King’s College; attending the PMG Conference reminded me why I am here and that I am privileged to be surrounded by like-minded people, some of whom I managed to say hello to at the event!

Photograph courtesy of Suzie Hunt 

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