As a second year nursing student, I felt it is in my best interests and also in the interests of my colleagues to voice my opinions on the recent appalling proposition from the HSE to lower nursing graduates salaries by a whopping twenty percent.
Throughout the history of nursing, the profession has always grappled with being a target for unfair and inappropriate relations. However, we have now come to a time that nursing has achieved its academic worthiness, with the four-year degree programme in place.
With CAO points increasing with every new year, nursing and all of its variations (midwifery, Intellectual Disability, Paediatrics) are becoming more of a popular and desirable choice. Leaving Certificate students are competing vigorously for places within these quality courses throughout the country as points are on the increase.
With this so-called ‘incentive’ declared by the HSE to lower the already low wage of a newly registered nurse (a pay scale which has already been considerably reduced over the preceding years), these students looking to partake in a nursing degree may have to steer towards other pathways .
Many students, as I did myself, from the outset of a nursing degree aim to achieve the highest standard of nursing education that they can. This involves partaking in up to thirty five hours a week of class time and also clinical placement. A full-time job. With this significant commitment, it seems only fair that in tandem with this, one would assume it should also achieve a suitable and appropriate renumeration just as every other profession rightly deserves.
James Reilly, Minister for Health, has depicted this inducement as an ‘exceptional opportunity’ for newly qualified nurses. As a medical doctor himself, he has witnessed firsthand the important role of a nurse within the healthcare setting. By introducing this scheme in the manner he has done so, he is undermining this role and belittling the work of a nurse. An exceptional opportunity for the HSE to reduce government costs and introduce cheap labour perhaps but by no means an exceptional opportunity to the newly-qualified nurse looking to pay off student loans, college fees and various debts that may have accumulated over their time in college.
As we complete our second year of nursing, concerns and fears of being able to maintain some sort of standard of living after graduation are being firmly etched on our minds, with emigration being in the forefronts of most of our thoughts and plans. Although it has always been a tradition that Irish nurses would disperse around the world, with the impetus of this regime it has now become a necessity. Nursing is the practice of providing care for the sick, now we need to ask who is going to practice providing care for us?
Sinead Kelly is a second year nursing student.