8 down, 5 to go!

August 17, 2014 § 4 Comments

Only 5 more shifts left of nursing practice and I can’t wait for it to be over. I have learned a lot, but in the end, there is so little that we are qualified to do – especially with such limited Hungarian. Most of the time, I feel like we are just in the way.

Our night shift went well – at least for the first 6 hours. Instead of doing it in Neurology, we were transferred to Gastroenterology. We’d never met any of the nurses there, but once they got over the surprise that there were three of us, they were pretty nice. We started by changing some beds, checking the soap and tissue dispensers in the department and checking that the emergency bag was up-to-date. Poor Miklós, we are pretty much completely handicapped without him. Checking the medications was fine, but when it came to checking different tools and gadgets that weren’t labeled with a name, we were helpless. I know this all doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s part of my plan. I wanted to bore you before telling you what made the whole night worth it: we got to practice drawing each other’s blood! I know nurses do it all the time, but it was still so exciting for me. We learned which areas to check for veins, how to identify a good vein, veins to avoid and the techniques for inserting/withdrawing the needle.

Around midnight, we got a call saying that a new patient would be arriving: a four-year-old boy with stomach pain and vomiting. We were allowed to check him in, something that made us feel accomplished. Miklós had to take the history, so Jun and I took his head and chest measurements, weight, height and blood pressure. Once he was shown to his room, I was tasked with taking his temperature. He’d been a little grumpy when he first arrived and had escalated to near impossible by the time we got to his room. Every time I tried to bring the thermometer to his ear, he became hysterical, tossing his head back and forth so that I couldn’t get near him. When I did manage to get close, he screamed and hit my hand. His mom was trying to calm him down the best she could, but there wasn’t much that could be done. With the language/culture barrier, I didn’t feel comfortable forcefully grabbing his head and holding it still while I took the measurement. Had it been a situation where I could have spoken English, I would have handled the situation differently. I would have explained what I was going to do, maybe let him try doing it on me, and if none of that had worked, calmly explained to the mom that I was going to need to hold his head down. Eventually the nurse came in and told us that we should just try to do it later – thankfully!

After the thermometer incident, the night quickly transitioned to a game of “who can keep their eyelids open the longest”. At 1, one of the nurses asked us if we were curious about the patients in the department. The one I remember most was a boy, not even 10 years old, suffering from a brain tumor. She told us that his brother had died of the same condition last year and that he didn’t have more than a couple of months to live himself. It made me so sad to think that such a young boy was given such little time on this earth. In addition to the tumor, he’d had a right atrial infarction (heart attack in his right atria) and stomach pain. Later on, the other nurse walked us through how to hook up the oxygen in case his condition worsened over the night. When I asked why he was in Gastroenterology and not Oncology, the nurse answered that even she didn’t really understand the reason, but that it had something to do with statistics/bureaucratic nonsense concerning his nationality (non-Hungarian).

On Friday, we expected to do our practice in Gastroenterology. We had been told that we would be doing the remaining shifts there instead of Neurology (apparently so that Jun and I could experience more of the hospital). When I showed up Friday morning, I tried my best to communicate why I was there, but communication proved impossible. I ended up sitting and waiting for Jun and Miklós, since I didn’t want to just help myself to the changing room and start fiddling around with the soap boxes. Before the boys showed up, the head nurse arrived. After cordial greetings, I explained that I wasn’t able to tell the nurses that I would be working there that day. I was careful to use English appropriate for the situation and yet she still needed 3 minutes alone to understand what I’d said. She then told me that we would instead be going to Pulmonology for the day, since there were residents there that spoke English (whom we never ended up meeting).

Our stint in Pulmonology was the slowest yet. We were introduced to all the cases and then took the temperatures of a few of the patients. After that? Nothing! I didn’t want to totally waste my time, so I decided to harass Miklós with questions about Hungarian. He will be finishing his practice on Thursday, which leaves Jun and I to fend for ourselves for two days. Two days without a translator! In anticipation of this, I tried to think of some questions/statements that we could have translated beforehand. I carry around a little book for notes, some Hungarian terms/words and some diagnoses that we are told about so that I can look them up at home.

These are examples of words I noted down before I started the practice:

NursingVocab2 NursingVocab

Here are some of the questions that Miklós translated:


After the question-translating and a little lesson on how to conjugate verbs in different tenses, we moved on to Hungarian vowels. Miklós had been stressing the importance of them and how they were each their own letter and not variations on the original vowels. I told him about similar vowels in Norwegian – æ ø å – but that didn’t seem to matter…

I was having a hard time with them – there are 14! – so I made up a little game: Miklós would say a word in Hungarian that started with a vowel and I had to guess which vowel it was. From the results, you can see where my weaknesses lie.


So that was Friday! Exciting stuff…

Now, it’s late Sunday night and I’m trying to trick my body into falling asleep before midnight so that I don’t only get 5 hours of sleep. By tricking it, I mean getting into bed before 21:00. I’m looking forward to this being done so that my sleep cycle becomes more regular…right now it’s a bit manic. Can you spot the nights before work and the nights before a day off? I feel like a sloth-robot hybrid!


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§ 4 Responses to 8 down, 5 to go!

  • Got to say I love your blog! It is fun to see how a med student survives here in Budapest (I’m a vet student starting inactive year (a year btw 2nd and 3rd) 😉 Very detailed and interesting posts! 😀

    • Buda B says:

      Hi Ann Kristin,

      Thank you! I’m sure you can identify with some of the experiences then 😉 It’s a fun city to live in as students, even if the school part can be a challenge. Wish you the best of luck with your inactive year!


  • Tony Fiorentino says:

    Bianca I have a Android phone and a Nexus 7 tablet. I loaded up an applicatio called Talking Translator. I can speak in English and the device will repeat what i said in Spanish. One more click and the device will listen to what the Spaniish speaker says and will repeat in English. Fantastic. Someday soon we shall carry universal translators like we wear a watch

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