- Tell us a little about yourself, Sarina.
I study at the Königin Elisabeth Herzberge Hospital in Berlin. I’m currently finishing up my second year of studies to become a nurse and thereafter I have 1 more year to go. I love the hospital that is connected to my school. There are a lot of older people here, so you constantly get ideas about how to improve their daily lives and quality of care. When you work very up close and personal with people you want to help, you are inspired about creative ways to make things better for them.
Right now it is really difficult to move forward with my winning idea, the Memory Mobile, as well as any other improvements because of COVID-19. Without any visitors allowed, it means that I cannot interact with the the patients that I love working with and find out what else nurses can do to help them. I can’t wait for the day when I can return to them with ease.
- How has COVID-19 impacted your studies and plans this year?
I’ve had to be a lot more resilient this year since things are constantly changing around us. I actually became quite ill in May this year. I wasn’t sure if it was COVID-19 or not, but it was quite scary. It turned out to be a different lung virus from COVID-19, which was a huge relief for both myself and my roommate.
Socially, things have changed a lot and my circle has become a lot smaller over the past few months. Of course I have my roommate who is wonderful and we have stuck together through these tough times. School has been very different as well as we are doing more home-schooling online instead. We’re slowing getting back into lecture halls with classmates as well. We’re wearing masks and we’re 1.5 m apart and trying to make the best of these new circumstances.
It isn’t easy for anyone. We’re all trying to stay strong and help each other adapt to tough times and new guidelines.
Luckily I’m not that far from home. I live in Berlin at the student dormitory, and my parents are about 1-hour outside of town. It was tough not seeing my parents for a while, especially when I was ill. But since I got tested negative for COVID-19, I have been able to visit them, and that has been very special indeed.
- Your winning idea that secured your place as the winner of the 2019 Queen Silvia Nursing Award Germany scholar was the creation of a Memory Mobile that can be made between patients, rehabilitation professionals and loved ones. Can you tell us how this idea came about?
I was working in the geriatric division at the hospital where I studied, and it was time for my 6-months “bathing” examination. This is an examination to test a nursing student’s ability to dry-bath a patient in his/her bed.
I was already nervous about this examination, and the patient that was to be bathed had stage 3 dementia.
I could not really talk to her, and this was the first person that I ever worked with who had a dementia diagnosis.
I became even more nervous – with the examination environment, my instructor watching me, and a patient with cognitive decline. And the more nervous I got, the more nervous the patient became. She was not only nervous but also afraid.
After I returned home, I really reflected upon my experience. How should I have helped her and myself feel more at ease, more relaxed, and less afraid? She took my energy because I was so nervous, afraid and new – so how could I avoid that scenario for more nurses and patients in the future?
As I studied more at school, particularly about dementia diseases, I learned that healthcare teams can help patients feel at ease if there is something that they can see, feel or smell that is very familiar to them. These things might be able to calm them down while reducing anxiety and creating a sense of ease. I was particularly interested in the power of smell, as I learned that it can be even more important than the sense of sight. That is why I would really like my Memory Mobile to incorporate favorite scents from the patient’s past, maybe a favorite soap or fragrance for example. Any of these could help create a sense of calm for both patient and nurse.
It is a constant learning process, so I’m looking forward to developing the idea further and seeing if it would indeed work in care environments.
- What stage are you in the implementation or further development of the Memory Mobile?
I had a lot of ambition to test my idea with care facilities this year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has changed a lot of the plans that I had. Since hygiene is so important these days, it is extremely difficult to do meaningful testing, interviews or trials with something so hands-on.
The hospital where I work decided it would not be the right time to test it, and this makes it difficult to understand what adaptations or improvements might be needed. I have another hospital that has received my proposal to test the Memory Mobile, but we really need to see if things calm down with COVID-19 before we can go in.
- What are your future plans within the nursing profession, Sarina?
Right now my priorities are to finish school. I have my exams in a few months, so I need to plan my study strategies. But thereafter, I’d like to get back working on my winning idea and bring it into the right kind of care environments.
- What is your advice to the 2020 nursing students who would like to apply for the Queen Silvia Nursing Award Germany?
Stick to what you know and what you believe in. If your submission comes from your heart and you are passionate about improving care, then send it in. We as nurses learn so much, and experience even more, so we’re always thinking of ways to make things better for our patients and team members. I know each and every one of us is full of great things to share to improve care for others.