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Student Nurses – Working Unpaid During a Pandemic

On the 16th of October, this year the Irish Nurses and Midwife Organisation (INMO) released a press release to ‘stop exploiting student nurses and midwives’

 

In the press release it specified that student nurses were being exploited during the time of COVID-19 ‘Students on placements in hospitals across Ireland are facing additional COVID risks and are effectively being asked to work as staff as staff for no pay’

 

Over the years in Ireland there has been controversy over the treatment of nurses and student nurses and the COVID-19 is just highlighting this problem.

 

‘It’s hard being on placement to motivate yourself to put in all the best you can, the whole 13 hour shift, when you know there are people doing the exact same work as you and getting money’ said Aoife D’Arcy, a third year Trinity College Dublin (TCD) student nurse. 

 

‘It’s going to be tougher working with COVID on placement knowing that I’m exposing myself and my family’ said D’Arcy.

 

In the press release the expresses how nursing students are expected to drop their work for placement without any type of compensation.

 

‘Many (students) have also faced income loss, as they are no longer able to work part time as care assistants while studying, due to the infection risk of working in a care home’ said the INMO.

 

‘The placement can’t tell you to give up your job, originally in summer they could but the INMO stepped in, it’s you’re at job’s discretion.’ said D’Arcy

 

Since 1st and 3rd year student nurses are also not seen as employees, they are not entitled to the COVID payment.

 

“They do not have the protections provided to employees. While most third-level students are advised to stay off campus and study online, nursing midwifery students have to attend very dangerous workplaces to fulfil their learning objectives’ said Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of INMO in the press release.

 

When on placement, student nurses do get travel expenses however, the contribution given is not enough.

 

‘For the hospital I am in I get given €25 a week, I’ve been put in some many random places that it costs a lot more to get to but it is still just set to that number’ said D’Arcy

 

‘Going off last year’s figures, it cost me above €90 a week, for just travelling alone for placement’ said D’Arcy.

 

‘I know I’m lucky because I haven’t had to give up my job or pay a fortune for accommodation, but I have a lot of friends who have had and can’t work and are just broke’ said D’Arcy.

‘I know student nurses who’ve had to pay to live in hotels, because their accommodation wont take them anymore, none of it is being recognised,’ said D’Arcy.

 

A HSE scheme was set up in March when the first wave of the pandemic by the formerMinister for Health, Simon Harris, in which student nurses would be paid healthcare assistant  salaries however this was discontinued.  

 

A clinical placement coordinator, who was not named in the INMO press release said ‘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.’

 

‘You have your placement, and then you’re expected to do your assignments on top of that and the majority of people have to work, it’s exhausting and there’s no understanding of that’ said D’Arcy.

 

‘One week due to my job and placement I worked 67 hours’ she added

 

‘I think what frustrates me the most is people’s lack of knowledge about how we are treated, so many think we’re getting paid and it’s just not true’ said D’Arcy. ‘I’d like to be compensated for putting my health on the line and my family’s health too.’

 

In the nursing community there is also some speculation, that nurses are paid poorly and student nurses are not paid due to it being perceived as a woman’s job, and that’s why it’s not prioritised.

 

‘The support and pay of nurses is inadequate because it’s never been viewed as a man’s job, and the men in the government have never prioritised it, so throughout the years it just hasn’t had the respect it deserved’ concluded D’Arcy.

Final year journalism student just trying to survive.
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