Nurses convention to draw 1,600|[04/02/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2008

‘It is better than fabulous,’ convention center boss says

About 1,600 student nurses, exhibitors and speakers will flock to Vicksburg Thursday to what has become the largest multiday convention the Vicksburg Convention Center hosts annually, said director Larry Gawronski.

“It is better than fabulous,” he said. “Every event — no matter how small or large — that brings overnight, out-of-town guests is a great economic thing” for Vicksburg.

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Members of the Mississippi Organization for Students of Associate Degree Nursing Convention will begin to arrive at the Mulberry Street center at 8 a.m. for pre-convention activities. The event will officially begin that afternoon with a keynote address and an awards ceremony. About 1,400 students and 200 registered nurses are expected. Gawronski said the spring gathering has grown from 1,300 the first year.

After a day of nursing-related activities, Thursday’s evening will have a different focus — shopping.

For the three years that Vicksburg has played host, nurses from across the state have streamed up and down Washington Street for Hit the Bricks, an event in which some downtown merchants keep their stores open later, serve refreshments and offer discounts on merchandise. This year, the convention was scheduled to coincide with the downtown blitz, said Regina Gailani, owner of Art & Soul and organizer for Hit the Bricks. This year’s event will be from 6 until 8 p.m. and will include 20 downtown merchants.

“It’s an event they look forward to,” she said. “And it gets them out on the town.”

Diane Gawronski, director of marketing and public relations for River Region Medical Center and spouse of the convention center director, said the convention provides an opportunity to meet with the student nurses.

“We’re very interested in speaking with the attendees to tell our great story and about their becoming a part of the River Region team,” she said. “We’re hoping that some of the attendees will give serious consideration to joining our staff.”

MOSA is a student sub-group of the Mississippi Organization for Associate Degree Nursing, the leading advocate in the state for associate degree nursing education and practice. The students and nurses, who will spend two days hearing speakers, participating in student and RN sessions and receiving information from about 40 exhibitors, are expected to make an impact on Vicksburg’s local economy, Gawronski said, indicating they would help fill hotel rooms.

Gailani said she notices a difference downtown.

“The nurses really contribute,” Gailani said. “The nurses really shop downtown.”

If you goHit the Bricks, an evening of shopping with the downtown merchants, will be from 6 to 8 Thursday at various shops downtown. For information, call 601-629-6201.