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A Conversation with Paola Gava, Germany's winner of QSNA 2023

What sparked your interest in nursing studies?

For the last 15 years I have taken care of family members and other people in my community. It made me realize how much I love helping others, I wanted to become a professional, and a nursing degree seemed to be the perfect solution.


What is it about nursing that continues to intrigue you, or keeps you learning and “on your toes?”

What intrigues me, is to learn in school the details about how our body works. During my apprenticeship, I am always excited to use professional tools in a real setting. Finally, I am very much motivated to learn how to interact with the patients, their family members, and other medical staff in a professional way.


Tell us about your specialization?  Do you have hopes for specialization? What specialization are you completing at university now and how do you hope to use your education?

My degree is a generalistic degree in nursing, but it is mainly focused on the care of elderly people. Particular attention is dedicated to neurological diseases and how to interact with older persons. I am currently in the middle of my second year. I just wish to learn as much as possible in the remaining one and a half year, both in school with the theory and during my apprenticeship with the practices. My main goal is to enter the industry prepared, motivated, ready to give my contribution.


Is there something unique about nursing in your country that you can share?

In my relatively short experience, I have found the international aspect of nursing in Germany to be very interesting. Many foreigners from different countries work in Germany as nurses. At the same time, the patients come from different countries with many cultural backgrounds. It is crucial to develop an inclusive approach, where the interaction between nurses and patients takes into account this multicultural aspect.


Where do you see yourself as a nurse leader in 10 years?

In 10 years, I wish to have enough experience to form and guide new students during their internship. I also wish to continue my education to become an expert in some specific domains, such as the care of wounds.


What is your advice to nursing students who are just entering their studies / nurses who are just entering the industry?

I am still a student and I do not feel like that I have enough experience to give advices to students or newly graduated nurses. I can only say that nursing is a very rewarding job, but it can also easily become exhausting, due to unsusual working hours, staff shortage, on top of stressful situations to deal with. Selfcare seems to be extremely important to avoid chronic fatigue and frustration.


How did you learn about the QSNA and what prompted you to apply?

One day, one of my teachers introduced the QSNA to our class and asked to develop a project for QSNA during class hours. Then every student presented their project. Mine received positive feedbacks, which motivated me to submit an official application. And here I am! 


In your opinion, how can nurses in your community contribute to better quality older adult and dementia care?

I really believe that the nurses in my community are well prepared to provide good care to elderly patients, in particular to those with dementia. Nonetheless, it is a challenging job. More attention should be addressed to planning reasonable shifts, avoiding staff shortage, and promoting teamwork. This way, the nurses could better use their energy to improve the care quality of their patients.


How do you think we can get more nurses excited to work with dementia care?

I believe that empathy is the key. I also believe that many of us, and many of the nurses as well, have had a relatively close person with dementia in their private life. Bringing up personal life experiences during training can evoke empathy and motivates nurses to work with patients with dementia.


Summarize your winning idea in a sentence and please let us know why you think this is important to share with the international nursing community? 

My project MED-DEM is a website designed to help family members dealing with a beloved one with dementia at home. MED-DEM has several options, among which fast communication between the caring family members, the nurses and the medical team. It also provides short informative videos to teach family members how to deal with typical symptoms in patients with dementia.


Will you be bringing your winning idea further, i.e. to market or to development?

I am really excited about the whole QSNA experience, from my victory up to all the events planned for 2024. Nonetheless, it would all feel a bit useless if I would not try to take my project further. This year or in the near future, I really hope to find sponsors and interested parties to develop my project and bring it to reality.


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