Postcard from Madrid, Spain

Hello my beautiful friends from all over the world!

I’m Erika, a 21-year-old student nurse from Tampere. Currently I’m living in Madrid and fulfilling my dreams. As a future nurse I’m doing my practical training here in Spain. The training is held in the city of Madrid and of course – only in Spanish. These past weeks have been very intense. Before departure my Spanish level was  B2  so I expect a huge change both in my nursing skills and in my Spanish.

My first placement took place in a health center in the neighborhood of Vallecas. My first day in health fulfilled every expectation I had – and much more. At 6 am I woke up and took the metro to Buenos Aires. I found the health centre easily with the help of Google Maps. But the problem is that I’m a typical Finn, so arrived 20 minutes early so I had to wait for the nurses at least 30 minutes.

Those 30 minutes felt like a lifetime because I was so nervous. At the same time, I felt excited to start my Erasmus but mostly I was terrified of meeting everyone. My worst fear was that my own tutor nurse, Diego, wouldn’t like me or we wouldn’t get along. So I waited, and soon I saw someone walking towards me. The first person who I met at the door was Manuela. She introduced me to Alejandra – one of the nurses in the health centre. Both of the girls were really nice. I got my ”bata” and I was shocked to get a” doctor’s jacket”. I was so amazed that I, a nursing student, could wear something as cool as that. In Finland they would never allow it: Those jackets are only for doctors. I think it’s nice that here everyone wears the same type of uniform. I’m so sick of the Finnish way of classifying everything and everyone to certain groups.

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So the first thing Alejandra told me was to follow her to ”sacar sangre” which means taking blood samples. I had just changed my clothes and hadn’t even met my tutor nurse yet, and I was already asked to do something. I loved it! No one treated me like a foreign student, I was part of the team now. So I followed her and she showed me how to take blood samples from the veins of the arm. I felt terrified at first, because actually nurses in Finland don’t really do that: blood samples are taken by the laborants. We had practiced venepunctures at uni but I didn’t remember anything of it but I was ready to learn! Alejandra showed me the technique one by one and before I even realized I had taken the samples.

In the end of the practical training I was already taking blood samples independently. So much fun, right?

Sacando sangre
Sacando sangre
Vaccination a baby
Vaccination a baby

During the first week I realized the nurses in Spain and Finland in health centres do completely different things: In Spain the work consists of dealing with chronic patients, preventive work and helping either elderly or young people – at least in the health centre of Alcala de Guadaira.  In Finland most of the time I evaluated the need of the treatment (for example if the patient had sudden chest paint) and dealt people with flu, pain or other symptoms they didn’t have before. MostIy the workday in my home country consisted of giving people influenza shots and taking Streptococcus smears.

One of the biggest surprises for me was to notice that no one in the health centre used an automatic machine to measure blood pressure. I’m happy that I actually practiced manual blood pressure measuring (more than most of my classmates) because I thought I’d never use this skill anywhere outside school property. In Finland it’s very rare to see someone using the old fashioned way.  But anyway I was able to do it without any problems when I practiced a few times first. It was actually more fun to measure the blood pressure manually than with a machine.

Another silly difference I noticed in the daily life were the different measurements. During Diego’s consultation I tested the patient’s blood sugar many times but at first I couldn’t understand the results at all because in Spain the health care professional use. In Finland the ideal glucose levels are 4 to 7 mmol/L and after meal under 9 mmol/, if the patient has diabetes but here in Spain normally the goal is to keep the sugar under 150 mg/ml after a meal. Before meals the result of glucose test should be 70-145

The highlight of my practical training was without a doubt the paediatric nursing part. Me and Diego were working together with the specialized children’s doctor for couple of sessions. The kids came to the health centre for their monthly check up and I was able to vaccinate, measure and weight them – even the small babies. I mainly focused on small children from 28 days to 3 years old. I check the kid’s sight and reflexes like for example the Moro reflex and the walking reflex. Also it was very important to evaluate the movement and flexibility of the baby but also how tense the baby was. I love working with babies and I’d like study the profession of midwife one day.

Measuring and weighting the baby
Measuring and weighting the baby
Checking the reflexes of the baby
Checking the reflexes of the baby

I have lived in Madrid before, so my exchange is not the most typical one. I haven’t been doing many touristic thing anymore because I know the city and the culture pretty well already. My favorite things to do in Madrid are to have tinto de verano in Chueca, enjoy the amazing tortilla de patatas in lovely Malasaña and finish the day going out to Kapital. Also Madrid is a heaven on earth for shopaholics like me. There are stores EVERYWHERE. I mean, I bet there are at least 30 Zaras in the city center… Really bad situation for my budget.

Madrid rooftop
Madrid rooftop

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When I was living in Madrid the first time I didn’t have enough money to travel. Last summer I worked my ass off to be able to enjoy this Erasmus to the fullest… So this time I’ve been focusing on traveling on my spare time. I have been to traveling around Morocco, since I found extremely cheap flight to fly there. They cost 19 euros in total! Can you believe that? I had the chance to go to Sahara desert and ride a camel, stroll around the Medina in Marrakesh and be amazed by the amazing blue village of Chefchaouen. This trip felt surreal…

After Morocco I went to celebrate Las Fallas to Valencia. ALUSINANTE!

My ride of the day - Ali Baba
My ride of the day – Ali Baba
Sunset in the dunes
Sunset in the dunes
Las Fallas -fiesta in Valencia
Las Fallas -fiesta in Valencia

I also traveled to Palma de Mallorca with a friend. We did a stand up paddle surfing course to the caves of Mallorca. It was absolutely breathtaking.

SUPping in Mallorca
SUPping in Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca

Of course I had to go to Andalusia while I’m here in Spain. I spent my Semana Santa watching Easter parades that lasted for hours and hours. I was traveling solo and spend my nights in different hostel. I met so many amazing people from all over the world both in Sevilla and in Cordoba. Finally me and a Canadian girl decided to continue our trip together. I might need to go and visit her in Canada next.. I wouldn’t travel to the South again during Easter because there were so many people, that at one point I couldn’t even enter to my hostel. But it was definitely worth the trouble.

One of the patios
One of the patios
Cordoba and its patios. Flowers everywhere
Cordoba and its patios. Flowers everywhere
Sevilla - Plaza de España
Sevilla – Plaza de España

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Semana santa parade
Semana santa parade
The cathedral/mosque of Cordoba
The cathedral/mosque of Cordoba

Finally I did two separate trips to Portugal. First to Lisbon and later to Aveiro and Porto. If you haven’t been to Portugal yet, you should go there ASAP! Portugal is easy to reach from Spain. I can highly recommend the carpooling system called blabla.car which I took to go to Porto by myself. It’s safe and cheap. I don’t want to write more about my trips because I’m not talented enough to describe all the amazing experiences I gained during these visits. I can only encourage you to travel now, while you still have the time. Be brave and don’t be afraid to do things by yourself.  LET’S GET LOST! NOW!

Lisbon
Lisbon
Praia costa nova in portugal
Praia costa nova in portugal
Cloudy Oporto
Cloudy Oporto
Riverside of Porto
Riverside of Porto

OTRR8726– With love, Erika

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