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Hungarian Healthcare System, Hospitals, Innovation: Interview with Nurse-PR Specialist Franciska Németh

Fanni Kaszás 2018.07.30.

Just a decade ago, Franciska Németh was being stopped for autographs and photos by fans of the Hungarian soap opera, Barátok Közt. However, she left behind her successful acting and advertising career to pursue her childhood dream of helping others by completing her nursing degree (originally, she planned to be a surgeon). She has only just surpassed thirty years old but is already quite accomplished within the sphere of healthcare: she works in the Saint John Hospital’s Children’s surgery and traumatology unit, she has her own child and her own business, she started numerous innovative projects which publicize Hungarian healthcare as well as improving communication between patients and health providers, she also notarizes the country’s only online forum for healthcare providers called GyermekSOS.

Franciska Németh recently sat down with Hungary Today talking about first, how she manages to complete her work energetically, then, if she would assume the being the face of nursing, what she thinks of Hungarian healthcare, and lastly, the state of Hungarian hospitals and how to effectively solve the most pressing problems within her field.


Franciska Németh became a nurse, leaving behind her successful acting and communications career. (photo: Vivien Cher Benkő / Hungary Today)

Franciska has completed a rather difficult year: as her son nears one year old, she recently started working at the hospital again– and while this in and of itself is quite draining, aside from raising a child, she is attending nursing classes at Semmelweis University while also working on her many ‘love-child’ projects related to nursing through her company. For example, ‘GyermekSOS’ (or ChildSOS) was her idea; it is the nation’s first search engine for children’s healthcare providers– but still only covering Budapest and Pest county. With merely a few clicks, the incredibly useful website not only finds the appropriate available hospital for your child’s needs, but also provides key emergency advice for the given situation. The start-up, because of its positive societal effects, was also included in a three-month mentoring program by Design Terminal. Meanwhile, Franziska is managing the creation of Healers, a magazine for nurses, which was included in Highlights of Hungary’s 2017 list of most exciting projects. Healers will not focus on entertainment, but rather aims to both reposition Hungarian healthcare and support providers. Within the framework of this magazine the “MEDukáció” webseries was developed which consists of nearly twenty educational videos to assist those workers preparing for medical exams.

She considers beoming nursing’s ‘face’ of nursing. (photo: Vivien Cher Benkő / Hungary Today)

Franciska frequently meets with youths preparing for college, thanks to her background and continued work in communications and healthcare. Typically, the first question they ask her is why she decided to “only” be a nurse rather than a doctor. To this, Franciska’s answer is the following: even though she attempted to apply to medical school as a doctor a couple of times, after she worked as a nurse’s apprentice to gain experience, she realized that nursing was much better for her. Franciska said:

I wanted to experience the reality of the quintessential Hungarian healthcare work – and instead of disliking it as I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I realized that nurses are the only ones capable of providing patients with the essential quality of care in a hospital. At this point I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. I would never change my career path as a nurse because I believe so strongly in its potential and love it so dearly. Outsiders, however – all they can see is nurses who don’t make enough money, merely follow doctor’s orders, and have completely unexciting careers.

Based on Franciska’s example, it is obvious that, at least within her work, there are just as many challenges as there are for a doctor, as well as constant opportunities to improve – considering the fact that healthcare is far from perfect. One of these improvements she deems most important is the dire need to keep graduated medical students in the country by presenting nursing as an appealing career.

One possible solution lies in the potential of utilizing more smart and positive marketing communications along with a greater social media presence.

The main issue is that there exist no communications within our profession. We should form a strategy, an approach involving both material and human resources dedicated to this cause. Currently there is no one to take on this task, given that those who are presently employed in hospitals already work more than 200 hours and cannot take on these extra responsibilities. At the same time though, communications have substantial effects on the judgements cast upon the profession. Within the past few years there has been a complete absence of marketing communications for the field of nursing and the consequences of that lack are being felt today. There were years that were considered the worst eras of nursing. Unfortunately, there are many nurses working in the system that absolutely do not belong there. This must change. Individuals who are motivated, interested and inspired by the career and opportunities of nursing should take their places. To find these individuals, we have to be able to reach them. The youths do not go onto professional, technical websites to read publications… They are on Instagram, social media and following influencers.

According to Franciska, the US example is the one to follow: there, healthcare professionals are consistently communicating, nurses have so-called “nurseonalities” who manage Instagram accounts with huge amounts of followers, nurses travel to hold presentations to promote the profession. It is no accident that, within the US, for the fifteenth time nurses have been voted the most trustworthy professionals.

Her ‘love-child’ projects, Healers and GyermekSOS, have been regardeed amongst Hungary’s most innovative projects. (photo: Vivien Cher Benkő / Hungary Today)

In comparison, Hungary’s newscasts regarding healthcare are consistently filled with negative stories such as the terrible condition of hospitals, the long waiting periods, the antiquated equipment, the overworked nurses, and the overall lack of a workforce. Franciska feels that the generalization of public figures and the extreme, dramatic media presentations of hospitals have a strong influence in the public’s overall negative view of hospitals. However, certain institutions, even certain divisions, have enormous differences in quality, some perfectly on par with global standards of top quality healthcare; though “for patients this level of unpredictability can be justifiably unsettling, in the case of positive experiences, patients turn to hospitals with confidence.”

“I have a vision of what the Hungarian nurse is like. Strong, prepared and competitive. Honored and appreciated. A true role model. I gladly work every day so that this dream may become a reality.” (photo: Vivien Cher Benkő / Hungary Today)

She also pointed out that it is important to remember that just because a hospital building may be brand new and up-to-standards, that does not necessarily mean that the individuals working within are the best – while a dilapidated hospital with bad infrastructure may be hiding a remarkably knowledgeable and hardworking staff. “I have a vision of what the Hungarian nurse is like. Strong, prepared and competitive. Honored and appreciated. A true role model. I gladly work every day so that this dream may become a reality” – professes Franciska.

She also admits that though she would never give up working in the hospital, she would not pass up the opportunity to represent the “face” of nursing through the use of social media.

I hold nursing and the rising generation of nurses most important. If my presence as a social media influence would bring more nurses into the system, I would gladly do it. But this is not really about me—anybody can be a role model. We should not have just one individual in fact, but rather around ten men and women of all ages from 18 to 60. The point is to be honest and good communicators… I think this would have large-scale effects. Currently it seems that within fifteen years we will have practically no more nurses, but I believe we can change this tendency. It is an enormous responsibility, but I feel I must take it on because nobody else is.


Reporting by Fanni Kaszás

Translated by Katrina Hier

Photos by Vivien Cher Benkő