The Dáil has voted against paying student nurses who have been working through the pandemic
The student nurses not only have to endure the risks of working with Covid-19 patients, but many cannot do part-time work that they had in the past because of their risk of infecting others, while still paying fees of between €3,000-€7,000 a year.
Last night, a motion in the Dáil that would have seen student nurses and midwives paid for their work placements was voted against, losing by 77 votes to 72.
This is despite the Minister for Health at the time, Simon Harris, announcing in March that student nurses would be paid for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. Students briefly received the healthcare assistant rate of €14 an hour after this announcement, but this was withdrawn.
The students currently get an allowance of €50.79 a week, but for many this does not cover their costs.
The motion was supported by Sinn Féin, The Labour Party, the Social Democrats, Solidarity-People Before Profit, and all independent TDs, with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and The Green Party voting against it.
— Chris Andrews TD (@chrisandrews64) December 2, 2020
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) in October urged the government to pay student nurses and midwives, saying that not to do so was “exploitation”.
In a statement, INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said: “Our students are being taken for granted. They are facing huge workloads and risking Covid infection. And while they are doing indispensable work, they are getting no financial recognition for their efforts.
“They do not have the protections provided to employees. While most third-level students are advised to stay off campus and study online, nursing and midwifery students have to attend very dangerous workplaces to fulfil their learning objectives.
“Extra work, serious risk, and other sources of income being cut: student nurses and midwives are getting a raw deal. It is beyond time to respect their contribution and pay them. The message is simple: stop exploiting student nurses and midwives.”
A clinical placement coordinator for students, who asked not to be named, also made a statement through the INMO. “It’s crazy what we’re asking of students. They’re expected to be students, care staff and nurses all rolled into one. Nursing placements are always tough, but Covid has meant they’re under incredible pressure.
“They’re being supervised by a dwindling number of staff who are all under massive pressure too. All of it combines to undercut their learning experience.
“So many workplaces would be lost without students. We’re relying on them to not only learn, but to put in massive work. Not paying them is cheating them, in my view.”
-The financial cost to the students carrying out this essential work is significant, with many students paying well over and above their travel and accommodation allowances to simply be able to attend the workplace.
— Megan O’ Connor – Text TCD to 50808 (@TCDSU_Education) December 2, 2020
Solidarity TD Mick Barry pointed out that being a healthcare worker was the most dangerous job in Ireland in 2020, because they accounted for one in six of all Covid-19 cases. He also claimed the State was reinforcing gender inequality by failing to pay student nurses, of which the vast majority are women.
Just home from unpaid 13 hour shift. I struggle to reach my learning goals on placement because I am carrying out duties that should be carried out by a paid staff member. I am working not just learning and govt just doesn’t value that. Is it any wonder we all want to emigrate?
— jodie (@yupfinglas) December 2, 2020
Many healthcare workers took to social media to voice their anger at the decision, with oncology and haematology nurse Tadhg Gately tweeting: “If you’re turning up for work at 0730 in the morning and leaving at 2030 at night you shouldn’t be worrying about bus fare home.”
I've ran codes with student nurses.
I've watched them catch medication errors before they happen.
I've brought patients to the morgue with students.
It's an extremely tough education and they deserve something for their contributions to the health service.
— Tadhg Gately (@tadhggately) December 2, 2020
Featured image: Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash
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