One could say that Agnieszka Napieralska is nursing royalty because she has an innate sense of what patients and their families require. Despite the fact that she is still a student, she is the winning scholar of the Queen Silvia Nursing Award in Poland – the Nobel Prize of sorts for nursing talent.

– You are a nurse who makes videos, and world-class videos at that.

– Well, while I don’t produce the videos myself but indeed, the idea to create them came from me. Thanks to this idea I was able to participate in the Queen Silvia Nursing Award competition, and, most importantly, assist families properly care for their family members at home. Families and caregivers do not always know what they need to do. For example, washing a bedridden patient, changing the body position, replacing wound dressings, feeding through a nasogastric tube and administering medication… I could go on and give you many more examples. These home care tasks are not difficult to do if you approach them skillfully but you need to know what to do and how to do it.  That is why we need a repository of training videos. The videos I came up with will be developed by nurses who are true experts in their profession.

– So that was your winning idea.

– Yes, I became the fourth Queen Silvia Nursing Award Scholar in Poland. I remember that after I started my nursing studies, in my first year, I saw a poster promoting the competition. It read: “The Queen Silvia Nursing Award” and I thought – “Wow! This sounds great.” But since I was only starting my studies and I did not have much experience, so that was where it ended – I only read the poster.  However, a year later I submitted my proposal and reached the semi-finals. Appetite comes with eating, so I followed up with another try. In September 2019, I submitted my idea for the fourth edition, and in December I was invited to the finals where I presented my idea to the members of the Jury. There were six ideas in the finals, including an application for people with physical disabilities that would show the barriers in the city, or an “alarm clock” reminding nurses to change the position of the patient. I found the ideas really good so I did not believe I could win. The other girls in the finals I competed with were already doing their M.A. and Ph.D. studies. I thought I would not come across very well,because I was still an undergraduate.

– But you did win afterall!

– We are celebrating the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and the videos will show that nurses do not only provide just care, but also educate patients. Everyone could benefit from the expertise of nurses. In a hospital situation, it is obvious, because when families lack information, they ask the nurses. When a person is discharged from the hospital, it is the nurse who explains to the family how to look after the patient. My current apprenticeship is in a hospital and I know the questions families will have when they leave the hospital with the patient and continue the care process at home. The challenge is how to do these care tasks well. This is where the bumpy ride starts, as families have to tackle everything by themselves.

– And is that where your videos can offer assistance?

– It is enough to play a step-by-step video on YouTube showing how to perform a given task. This makes providing care easier and safer. Recently with the support of specialists from my university, the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, and experts from the Regional Hospital in Olsztyn, we recorded a pilot video on how to feed a patient. The next step will be to show the clip to families providing home care as well as to experts. In accordance with good project implementation, this pilot aims to gather feedback, comments and advice as well as in-depth expert consultations, which will contribute to the development of subsequent recordings of increasingly higher quality.

– You will soon meet Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.

– It will be a very exciting event for me, and I can’t wait to experience the ceremony at the Royal Palace, where the scholars from all four of the Queen Silvia Nursing Award countries (Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Poland) will receive their Awards from Her Royal Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden. Each of us will present our winning idea at the Grand Ceremony.

– I assume that when you started your studies you never even dreamt of receiving this award, did you?

– To be honest I didn’t even know I was going to study nursing. I only knew I wanted to do something associated with medicine. I did not like the fact that a doctor’s role is highly involved in the diagnostic process, whereas it is primarily the nurses who have more contact with the patient. That is what i care about the most. I like to be close to patients, so I chose nursing although many people advised me against it. They said that as a graduate of medicine I would have better professional prospects and a better salary. Nevertheless, I decided to give nursing a try, because what matters to me is helping others. Years ago, when I used to watch nurses change dressings and give injections, I thought: “I could do that, too”. At that time, I did not know what the job entailed. I didn’t know what the job was like from the inside. Today, I do, and I can’t image that I would be doing anything else. I even write a blog where I dispel all myths and stereotypes around nursing. I try to make people aware of the positive aspects of this profession.

– And what’s the hardest bit about being a nurse?

– It is human suffering. It’s hard to prepare yourself for it. I remember my first internship in a surgical ward. I was in the recovery room where the patients had challenging conditions. They were on assisted breathing devices such as ventilators. At first, I was afraid to approach them and do anything. I thought I could hurt them! I realized that nursing was not just about taking blood samples and rubbing sweat off the patient’s forehead. Nursing is also about human tragedy and psychological trauma.

– Yet despite all of this, it is the nurse that the patient feels most at ease communicating with.

– The hospital made me realize that nothing human is alien to me. We don’t even realize the diseases that can affect us on any given day. As a nurse you have to be ready for all of this, and above all, you have to learn that the hospital is not your life. It is a job. When you close the door behind you, you must forget about everything. But it’s easier said than done. You can try to harden your attitude, but you will remember your patients for a long time. I still remember very well the patients who died. I remember their names, the rooms they were in, and even their beds. When you establish a relationship with a patient, it is difficult to forget about him or her.

– In the future, which ward would you like to work in? 

– The ER (emergency room) is definitely not for me. There’s too much chaos there. I’d like to work in a pediatric ward, but my biggest dream is a geriatric ward. Unfortunately, there is no such ward in Olsztyn where I study. I hope that this will change, because such a ward is very much needed here, and I do not want to leave my hometown.

– A nurse like yourself must be a treasure for your family, am I right?

– Every nursing or medical student is a home expert on health by default, I guess. It’s no different in my case. Whenever there’s a problem, everyone asks me for help right away. My parents have a farm, so when an animal needs an injection, I’m the one in charge. My assumption is that whatever the situation, I can use it to develop and grow.

Follow Agnieszka on her personal blog on Instagram – @pielegniarskiblog.

Follow other project updates from Poland on Queen Silvia Nursing Award Poland Facebook or Instagram pages.