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Recognition
For students

Madara Blumberga, a second-year student from the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Master’s Nursing study programme, was honoured at Riga Castle on 31 January at the closing event of the Meklējam sirdsmāsiņu campaign to search for the best Latvian nurse. Blumberga has worked as a paediatric nurse at the Children’s Clinical University Hospital for four years.

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The nursing profession will change in the near future and nurses will become professionals able to make decisions on their own, rather than just following doctor’s orders. Blumberga emphasises that doctors and nurses at the Children’s Clinical University Hospital are already equal colleagues. 'Care and treatment are two different, but equally important areas,' Blumberga emphasises. Photo: Aivars Liepiņš (Diena).

At the end of 2019 a campaign to look for the best nurse, Meklējam sirdsmāsiņu, was held to raise awareness, express appreciation and to promote the prestige of the nursing profession. Any existing or former patient, or the relatives of a patient, were invited to nominate their nurse by completing a questionnaire at the hospital or by sending an application electronically.

After graduating from high school Blumberga wanted to become a doctor and enrolled in RSU in a state-funded study place. 'I didn’t pass a major oral exam in histology in the spring semester, however, and had to take academic leave and continue my studies a year later. During my academic leave, I enrolled in a college and became a nursing assistant. On 1 September, I started working as a nursing assistant at the Children’s Clinical University Hospital. When I got back to my regular studies in the spring, I realised that being a doctor was not the right profession for me, and I applied to study again in the summer, but this time to become a nurse. After three years of studying at the RSU Red Cross Medical College I enrolled in the University of Latvia where I got a Bachelor’s degree paediatric nursing. Then I worked for a year and after a short pause I began my Master's studies at RSU,' says Blumberga summing up her education.

'I want to be present in the everyday things and see patients progress! I want to help with the little things and be part of the care process!' Madara Blumberga is proud of her work.

What qualities should a nurse have in order to become one of the best Latvian nurses, in your opinion?

You have to love what you do! You should have no doubts about your choice even on difficult days. You should be eager to get back to work after a vacation.

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

I've known for a long time that my future would be related to health care. I loved building hospitals and stretchers out of Lego blocks when I was little! But it was when I was studying in college to become a nursing assistant that I fell in love with health care.

A big push in favour of nursing might have been an experience I had when I was a teenager - I had leukaemia when I was 13 years old and was treated in the Oncology Unit at the Children's Clinical University Hospital. My family and I had to go through an intensive year of treatments, but it was a great life experience that now helps me in my work with patients.

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The closing event of the Best Nurse campaign at the Riga Castle on 31 January 2020. From the left: Egils Levits, President of Latvia, Andra Levite, the First Lady who was the patron of the campaign, RSU student Madara Blumberga, and Arkādijs Suharenko, Chairman of the Board of the Rietumu Banka Charity Fund. Photo: Ilmārs Znotiņš (Chancery of the President of Latvia).

It is said that the shortage of nurses in Latvia is due to the low salaries. Do you agree?

I think it is high time we started paying nurses a decent salary or there won't be any change for generations! Most of the nurses who are currently employed were educated during the Soviet era and are approaching retirement age.

Of course, I understand that changes aren't going to happen right away because a lot of work has to be done first.

Why are you studying nursing and working as a nurse if you know what salaries nurses in Latvia get?

I have this overwhelming desire to help and to improve things. Every morning I wake up with the idea that I will make this day better for someone.

I should add that the hospital is not my only workplace. I am also an assistant and a simulation environment methodologist at the RSU Red Cross Medical College. We simulate real-life situations for students - these are role-playing games where students have to perform their tasks just like in reality.

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Madara Blumberga (in bed) in September 2019 in the advanced simulation laboratory of the RSU Red Cross Medical College. Blumberga allows lecturers from Finland to take on the role of simulation leader and lead the negotiations. Photo from the archive of RSU Red Cross Medical College.

What do you do to relax?

I become physically and emotionally exhausted at work. I sleep, go into nature, go to our family summer house, or go for a walk to combat physical exhaustion. Music, family and friends help restore my emotional balance - game nights, family conversations, etc. 

Why did you decide to join the Master’s programme at RSU?

Since I am a member of the university's teaching staff, my colleagues encouraged me to continue my studies. Once I have a Master's degree, I will be able to participate in developing the curriculum.

 

The programme I am in is an academic programme, so it’s not like I will become better at injecting medication or binding up a wound after graduating, but it is a great opportunity to get to know more about research in nursing and to do my own research, to think about how to improve nurses’ work environment etc.

These studies allow me to take a critical look at my work duties. I can improve my organisational and management skills, as well as my teaching and communication skills.

What is your Master’s thesis about?

I am currently working on it very actively since I'll have to defend it in June. My work is related to the Haemato-oncology Unit of the Children's Clinical University Hospital. More specifically on patients who have to have medications injected over a long period of time, like chemotherapy using special venous access tools - port catheters.

Together with my colleagues at the RSU Department of Biology and Microbiology laboratory we are investigating whether there are bacteria on the needle in a port catheter and how much bacteria there is. We study how much bacteria grows out of the samples (needles) I get in the hospital. If something grows, we study the effectiveness of chlorhexidine discs against these bacteria.

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Madara Blumberga on an experience exchange trip at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland in 2019. Photo from Blumberga's private archive.

What advice do you have for students who are getting ready to enrol in university?

In my experience, many young people who have started their studies have not yet fully understood what they want to do in life. This is true for both those studying medicine and those who are studying nursing. So you have to let them try things out! And it is alright if maybe after a year they realise that they do not want to be a doctor or a nurse and continue their studies in another field.

It is a pity that volunteering is not as popular in Latvia as in many other European countries where students take a year off after secondary school to get a job and gain life experience. This helps them choose a career path.

I also want to add that men can be great nurses too! Although historically the profession has evolved from monastery nuns, I do not think we should give in to the old notion that nurses can only be women. I have great male colleagues in Latvia and Europe, so I invite men to apply for nursing studies.

This is the 70th anniversary year of RSU. What would you wish for your university?

I wish for RSU to continue to grow and become the best university for nursing!

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Madara Blumberga in London in June 2018 in the children’s playground at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Photo from Blumberga's private archive.

Facts about Madara Blumberga

  • Lives in Riga
  • Age: 28 years

  • Hobbies: reading books, handcrafting, travelling and being outdoors 

  • Paediatric nurse at the Haemato-Oncology Unit of the Children’s Clinical University Hospital

  • Worked at the Children’s Clinical University Hospital for eight years. For the first four years, she was a nurse assistant

  • Assistant and simulation environment methodologist at the RSU Red Cross Medical College

  • A second-year student of the RSU Master's Nursing  study programme