Interview with Hanna Tytärniemi, chair of Organising Committee
Click on the image to visit the NCP 2021 VIRTUAL website.
When the planning of the Nordic Congress of Psychiatry 2021 started the world had not heard about COVID-19.
True. We started already in 2017 in the Finnish Psychiatric Association to discuss what image we wanted to convey with the next Nordic congress, choosing the slogan and starting to think of excellent plenary speakers. Personally, I am involved in the organising committee of the congress and professor Tiina Paunio is the chair of the scientific committee.
Our original plans have been built around the typical structures of earlier Nordic Psychiatric Congresses with a Finnish twist. For instance, in our original social program we wanted to provide the participants with a glimpse of what is particularly Finnish, introducing Finnish culture, design, and architecture with a Finnish design tour. We had some more playful and casual social program planned as well, related to some peculiar "World championships" related to Finnish culture. Let's see how we will integrate these plans in our NCP2021 VIRTUAL program.
So the pandemic has changed your plans?
Since the spring of 2020 we have all seen the dramatic changes related to COVID-19. In the organising committee we have had to consider the pros et cons for having a face-to-face congress. There are very many factors to include when taking a final decision, and in November 2020, we had a clear opinion to organize the Congress in virtual surroundings. We are now updating our plans as we speak!
Meeting colleagues and friends in real time and interacting with colleagues from other countries allows you to get to know other cultural aspects and get an opportunity to develop new friendships and maybe plans for future collaboration. I think that this is a part of faceto-face events that most of us cherish. In NCP2021 we are now doing our best to facilitate the same in virtual surroundings. We just have to challenge our beliefs related to the traditional way of doing things.
Psychiatrist. Chair of Organising Committee for NCP2021 Virtual
Has the pandemic had any influence on the interest from the potential participants?
The whole world is right now living in a time of uncertainty, and not knowing for how long this will continue. Thus, many may have been uncertain about their possibility to travel and join the face-to-face congress in Helsinki. We wanted to commit ourselves to the virtual congress so that each potential participant would know in advance that there will not be a cancellation because of restrictions related to the pandemic.
Do you see some advantages with going virtual?
Indeed, there are several advantages. First of all, we can ensure that the congress will be held and not cancelled or postponed related to the pandemic. Also, safety is not an issue if we are still combating COVID-19, so all participants from whichever country can join the event safely. There are obvious ecological positive consequences related to less traveling and less use of materials.
Another advantage is a more economical participation fee and absence of travel and accommodation expenses, so many more can afford to participate. It is also easy to combine participation with continuation of your normal life with family, hobbies or other domestic interests. You can even sleep longer in between congress days when there is no need to travel or move between locations. You can even do stretching or yoga exercises or go for a walk in between the sessions. This can definitely support the learning possibilities. As a Finn I can also relate to introverts who may find it easier to attend a virtual event compared to a crowded live conference. So, we may end up by having a different kind of audience compared to many previous congresses.
A virtual congress challenges the concept of a congress. We have to think of new ways to structure the congress, prepare amore condensed version but also think of creative ways to include the audience, organize different "chat rooms" and ask presenters to be innovative in their presentations.
I hear it that you are quite optimistic when it comes to having a virtual event?
Yes, we have rolled up our sleeves, and our goal is to find new ways to attract psychiatrists to join together in a Nordic meeting and experience being part of a Nordic psychiatric community.
So join the congress is my message!! □