Surviving the Pflegepraktikum

At Charité, it's required that medical students complete a Pflegepraktikum - or nursing internship - for three months. Its aim is to teach students how to take care of patients.

I chose to do mine at Campus Benjamin Franklin (CBF) in the neurology department, since it has the largest stroke unit out of all the Charité campuses. Since I'm pursuing clinical epidemiology research in stroke, I thought interning in the stroke ward would complement my experience nicely.

The worst part of the internship is the work hours. I need to be at the nurses' station by 6:50 am, ready and dressed in mint-green scrubs.

Basically, I help nurses with their daily duties. Here's how my early shift generally goes:

  • 6:50 am - Handover: Morning shift personnel are briefed by nurses who worked the night shift
  • 7:15 am - I wake up patients to take their blood pressure, temperature and pulse rate.
  • 8:00 am - I help serve breakfast, which usually consists of bread rolls, cheese, salami, yogurt and spreads (butter/jam/honey/quark). I also offer them coffee or tea. Sometimes, I sit with patients and help them eat.
  • 9:00 am - I help clean up breakfast.
  • 9:45 am - I help wash, bathe, change, dress and turn the patients. Sometimes, I make their beds.
  • 10:30 am - Break: Breakfast time.
  • 11:00 am - I log vital signs into patient charts.
  • 12:00 pm - I measure blood sugar levels in the ward's diabetic patients.
  • 12:15 pm - I help serve lunch to patients and clean up after them (just like breakfast).
  • 2:00 pm - I offer patients tea or coffee from a cart.
  • ~3:00 pm - Freedom!

I'm also constantly running after call lights, which glow red whenever patients press their nurse call button. I fetch whatever they need or help them go somewhere. And from the nurses, I often hear, "Euuuuiii-na! Kannst du bitte..." (German for: "Euna, can you please...")

I've worked in hospitals before, but I've never had a physically taxing job like this one. I've only been here a week, but I'm already exhausted.