Though work is not always easy for geriatric nurse Sophia Warneke, the rewards make it all worthwhile. “Often, the profession is exhausting due to the well known shortage of skilled nurses in Germany,” says the 24-year-old, who was a competitor at WorldSkills Sao Paulo in 2015 and took bronze at EuroSkills Gothenburg the following year. “However, when I can elicit a smile from my patients I know that my working day has been successful. That motivates me every day.”

Sophia, who is studying health and social care management at university while holding down a part-time job as a nurse, has also spent the last two years working as a coach for WorldSkills Germany, helping young people specialising in health and social care prepare for skills competitions.

From a professional perspective, says Sophia, taking part in skills competitions helped her tremendously in terms of the ability to learn from her peers. “It is incredible and important to find out how other countries carry out elderly and nursing care, to look at the similarities and differences.”

Overall, the former competitor says she has seen her approach to work only improve since getting involved with WorldSkills and EuroSkills. “I learned how to organise my time and through constant observation of people and being in front of cameras I also learned how to speak to an audience, which definitely helps me in presentations.”

Sophia says she has also learned how to stay calm in stressful situations and has become more efficient at preparing for exams. All in all, she says, the effects have been life changing.

“When you are on the podium receiving a medal you know exactly what you have been preparing for and how much time you’ve invested,” she says. “So, in addition to helping me overcome major personal and professional challenges, WorldSkills and EuroSkills have shaped me to be more involved in the care industry.”

With this in mind it should come as no surprise that when the German WorldSkills national team for nursing was launched two years ago, Sophia felt compelled to further promote the industry she has so much passion for. “I am an assistant coach and help motivate young people to participate in WorldSkills and EuroSkills in order to improve the quality of nursing long term. It is also important to me that nurses receive appreciation. In my opinion, there is hardly any better way to achieve that than through participation in WorldSkills and EuroSkills competitions.

“The experiences that you gain at competitions and the things you learn about yourself have a long-term impact and are certainly an advantage for your entire life.”