This week, James Upton writes about the Irish Nursing Crisis, and what UCC’s SU are doing to support our nursing students.
So my article this week relates to the the working conditions that student nurse and midwives find themselves in.
Firstly let’s mention the elephant in the room which is – pay. For the first 12 weeks of placement student nurses and midwives receive €6.49 which equates to 75% of the national minimum wage, for the second twelve weeks this rises €6.92 which is 80% and finally for the last twelve weeks they’re given 90% of the minimum wage which is €7.79, and you may think that these nurses and midwives are ‘learning’ they’re beginning understand how to do their jobs, but there is one issue with that statement! An interning student is recognised as ‘half’ a staff nurse. So for every two student nurses you have one ‘whole’ qualified nurse – and I didn’t make that up, that figure comes from the HSE rosters.
The interning nurses and midwives are expected to perform the same duties as any ordinary nurse. Horror stories of interns being made cry, told that “if you administer these drugs wrong now, and if something happens to the patient ,it’s your fault” and another nurses being told ‘she killed him’. Blame is tossed onto these interns which irrefutably has direct impact on their passion and love for the work because slowly they begin to feel inadequate. One student had porridge thrown all over them and the staff nurse on duty wouldn’t allow them change their clothing so that intern spent their morning walking around with dried oats on their clothes – totally acceptable.
Student nurses and midwives 1st – 4th year are angry.
Correction – they’re furious, because only there weeks ago when UCCSU decided it was time to engage students with this campaign did the members of UCC Students’ Union realise their rights were being smothered by a piece of national legislation called the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act which through the Haddignton Road Agreement allows the government to remove the student nurse from the HSE roster if any nurse intern protests, gathers or demonstrates with anti-sentiment towards their wage. Can you tell someone they can’t protest?
Yesterday, UCCSU arranged an official photocall of student nurses and midwives highlighting their support for the ongoing talks between the INMO and HSE in relation to working conditions; Over 100 students stood in solidarity with one another calling for a positive outcome from these talks. UCCSU believes it’s vitally important to rectify the conditions and bring to end the negative experiences of interning nurses and midwives while on placement, and to do this over the next two months the Union will be launching a campaign to highlight the stories that student nurses and midwives have to tell about their time in our health system and how it has impacted their physical and mental health through social, professional and financial circumstances
These conditions are driving a policy of forced emigration among these graduates and I highly encourage all parties nationally to consider the impact that these polices and experiences are having in the positive recruitment practices of international health services. These practices are proving detrimental to the future of our health system. UCCSU stands strongly alongside our membership to protect their rights to work under fair, equal and appropriate working conditions in this country.
We must change our opinion of interns in this country otherwise in ten years time our health system will not suffer the inefficiencies it is currently representing, rather it will find itself under pressure due to a self inflicted staffing crises. We cannot allow further graduates to be incentivised abroad; we must offer incentives to develop and support an intern programme for student nurses that is equal and motivates nurses to stay in Ireland