“Taking a scalpel to newly qualified nurse’s pay”
As a first year nursing student and active Fianna Fail member, I must admit that upon hearing the details of the government’s new ‘nursing graduate scheme’ I questioned whether my college course choice was wise or not. I had always wanted to become a nurse, but the thoughts of working long and unsocial hours for a very considerable reduction in pay to €22,000 is very demoralising.
Realizing that I was probably going to have to emigrate or earn a very low wage in my home country took the enjoyment out of starting my dream course. “Why am I even attending lectures for a course that isn’t going to benefit me financially in the long run anyway?”, I would ask myself after my 8am alarm deafened me, day in, day out.
This scheme undermines the worth of new graduates and indeed the nursing and midwifery profession. Nurses and Midwives are the only Health Professionals who have a constant presence in the clinical areas. We are there for the joyous occasions of a birth and we are also there to comfort the dying and to support the bereaved. The psychological demands of a career in nursing cannot be underestimated. We need a workforce that is highly motivated and committed. According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, graduate nurses working in Canada today earn €43,614, almost double what this scheme offers.
This proposed reduction in pay for new graduates will lead to low morale and those who can emigrate will do so. Are we foolishly repeating the folly of the 80’s when Irish nurses/midwives staffed the hospitals of the UK and Australia? This in turn meant the Irish health service went abroad recruiting nurses and midwives in the 90’s. The government are displaying similar lack of forward planning and vision now. Where is the economic sense in educating nurses and midwives and forcing them to emigrate?
Fianna Fáil spokesperson for health Billy Kelleher stated the inevitable: “The reality of the government’s policy is that qualified nurses are going to end up looking for work abroad.” I believe these cuts are particularly unfair as newly qualified nurses /midwives are already amongst the lowest paid health service workers. This cut highlights the emptiness of the government’s promise to protect frontline services. This is a direct attack on a frontline service involved in providing direct patient care.
I am familiar with the ignorance shown by the current Minister for Health on a number of occasions, but I believe that when he stated that if nurses and midwives were not happy with the initiative, they could emigrate or work in fast food outlets was the ultimate offence. I must conclude with the immortal words:
“Welcome to McDonald’s, can I take your order please?”
Fiona Dunne is a Children’s and General Nursing student and is the First Year Representative of DCU Ógra Fianna Fáil’s Padraig Pearse Cumann.