My very first conference as a PA-C!

I am so thankful that my job allowed me to take time away from my orientation to attend the annual SPAO-HNS Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona last weekend.

Having only 12 hours of ENT lectures that barely scratches the surface of the otolaryngology world in PA school, I feel like I am constantly running up a steep hill.  The conference itself exceeded all of my expectations. It was so nice to fully immerse myself in nothing but all things related to otolaryngology.

Also, for the first time, I am surrounded by the other 1000 or so PAs/NPs (I believe there are only around 1100 of us ENT PAs) in the field. No other conference will provide me that type of support as ENT is generally the forgotten specialty (although ironically, ENT issues are commonly seen in primary care).

I took advantage of my Thursday morning and explored the Desert Botanical Garden before my afternoon workshop. I arrived at the opening of the garden at 8 AM. 2 hours after walking around, the Arizona heat got to me and I called it quits.

If you ever find yourself in the Phoenix area, I highly recommend going to the botanical garden…it was absolutely beautiful! I was mesmerized by the large cacti. Living in Florida, all I see are palm trees and beaches. It was so breathtaking to see a different landscape and new wildlife.

Here’s a recap of the SPAO Conference:

Pre-Conference Day #1: Workshop Day
Intro to Otology Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss normal, normal variant and abnormal otologic conditions.
  • Demonstrate techniques for cerumen removal.
  • Demonstrate techniques for foreign body removal from ear.
  • Perform manual pneumatic otoscopy examination

Ear debridement becomes your bread and butter in the ENT world. I figured this would be a great start before I dive in and start cleaning out people’s ears on my own.

We finished the workshop pretty early and as I sat in the hotel lobby contemplating what to do next, my mentor spotted me and invited me to sit in on an advanced airway lecture.


Although we don’t necessarily trach people in our clinics, it was extremely helpful to learn how to change tracheostomy tubes or just become more familiar with them on the few occasions that we have trach patients.

Day #1 – Friday, April 27th


Conference days are LONG! As much as I was exhausted, I wanted to make the most out of it and made sure to attend as many workshops as I can. This year, The Mayo Clinic – Arizona hosted and the speakers were phenomenal! Even though my department is split into H&N and Other ENT specialties, I still attended as many lectures as I can in the event that I may need to cover our H&N clinic.

8:00 AM – Transoral Surgical Approaches for H&N Cancer
9:00 AM – Adult audiology & Hearing Loss
10:30 AM – Workup of the dizzy patient
11:30 AM – Migraine Manifestations in OHNS
1:30 PM – Coding for the Ambulatory Setting
2:30 PM – Oral Lesions
4:00 PM – Outer and Middle Ear Disorders
5:00 PM – Airway Inflammatory Disease

Overall, Day 1 was great, and the information covered are topics that I see very commonly in our clinics.

I’m so grateful that they offered a coding for the ambulatory setting course. That’s one area where I did not learn in PA school. I recall my first week of training, I met with our department auditor who sat me down and informed me of the importance of how to bill correctly. It’s just funny, we’re trained as MEDICAL providers. All this fluff about insurances and billing and knowing if I should code this visit as a ‘Level 3’ or a ‘Level 4’ is just ridiculous. Sadly, this is the reality of modern-day medicine.

The weeks leading up to the conference, I connected with a NP who was also going to be there at the conference. We met for dinner and explored Old Town Scottsdale for the night. What can I say? I’m in LOVE with Scottsdale. It’s such a cute little western town.

Day #2 – Saturday, April 28th

7:00 AM – OHNS Imaging – Sinus and Neck
8:00 AM – Sinonasal Disorders
9:30 AM – Adult and Pediatric CRS: An update
10:30 AM – OHNS Imaging – Temporal Bone and Skull Base
11:30 AM – OSA Evaluation and Management Update
12:45 PM – Professional Advocacy
2:00 PM – Adjourn for afternoon off
6:00 PM – SPAO-HNS Membership Meeting
7:00 PM – Reception and Silent Auction

I lived for Laura Kirk’s talk about Professional Advocacy. Literally, this woman is WHO I want to be when I grow up! Her talk really resonated with me. I’ll review her lecture notes and share them in a future post!


We had the rest of the afternoon off before attending the membership meeting and reception. What I thought was going to be a relaxing afternoon laying out by the pool, ended up being a networking event (I never miss a beat when it comes for an opportunity to network) with my mentor and a few of our guest lecturers.

I encourage that if you do end up joining your specialty organizations, that you take time to attend the membership meeting. You’ll find that your colleagues are a small working circle and it’s nice to know who’s who. For example, if one of your patients says “I’m moving to ____.” In which you can reply back, “I know someone great there!” It’s also nice to know what the organization is doing FOR YOU. Because ENT is a surgical specialty, we have a close relationship with our physicians and their collaborations with AAO-HNS (American Academy of Otolaryngology).

Day #3 – Sunday, April 29th

7:00 AM – Collaborative Evaluation and Tx of Dysphonia
8:00 AM – Basic Laryngology
9:30 AM – Pediatric Hearing Loss
10:30 AM – Chronic Cough
11:30 AM – Thyroid Lesions
12: 45 PM – Advance Practice Models of Care

At this point, I was exhausted. As you can see from my schedule, they were almost 12 hours day!

The best part of conferences is getting free swag! I would say derm conferences are the best since you can actually test out products for yourself, but I opted to collect samples for my patients instead.

After visiting all of the exhibitors and turning in my registration card, I ended up winning the raffle for a free registration to next year’s SPAO-HNS Conference in Orlando!

After the closing remarks of the conference, I spent my last few hours in Phoenix with my former coworker from epi. We explored Tempe, had some great eats and caught up on life. She told me on my first day that I had to catch the sunsets (apparently AZ is known for their sunsets) and after sharing my disappointment of how I kept missing these beautiful sunsets, she planned for us to explore South Mountain to catch one last sunset before I catch my flight! How cool is that!?


TLDR; Overall, I had an AMAZING time in Scottsdale! There’s no better way to stay up to date in your field than to attend your specialty conferences. Network with anyone and everyone (you never know when you’ll find yourself stuck in a rut and need advice).  And truth be told, Arizona does have the best sunsets (especially if you can view them on the mountain tops –Thanks so much Mackenzie)!

See ya next year SPAO-HNS in Orlando!






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