Student nurses to protest over wages and working conditions

Student and graduate nurses will stage a demonstration against the profession’s starting salary outside the offices of the Health Service Executive in Dublin tomorrow.

The starting salary for nurses has dropped from €26,000 to €22,000, with graduate nurses who start work straight after college earning €6.49 an hour. This figure is lower than the minimum wage for 16 year-olds.

The “Everyone Loves Nurses” campaign will be led by the Union of Students in Ireland. USI President Joe O’Connor has said that the salary drop is forcing nurses to emigrate.

“Our hospitals need nurses to stay in Ireland to work,” he said. “The message to Minister [for Health Dr James] Reilly today is loud and clear; change the starting salary level back to €26,000 for newly graduated nurses,” he added.

Graduates could earn up to twice as much if they choose to emigrate to other countries, including up to €43,614 a year in Canada.

Minister Reilly has repeatedly defended the rate, saying it includes further education and should instead be seen as a chance for graduates to gain more experience.

DCU Students’ Union is supporting student nurses with the release of a video promoting the demonstration.

The demonstration coincides with the Lancet report, which was published by DCU Professor Anne Scott and a team of researchers in the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in the U.S.

The study took place across nine European countries, documenting the impact a Bachelor of Education in Nursing has in hospitals.

According to the study, for every one point increase in the patient to nurse ratio, there’s a seven per cent increase in the death rate.

As well as this, the study indicates that in hospitals where 60 per cent of nurses have bachelor degrees, risk of death after common surgical procedures is decreased by a third.

“This study draws attention to the importance of examining both patient-to-nurse ratios and the education levels of nursing staff in our hospitals, and in the individual wards in those hospitals, as a possible means of improving patient outcomes,” said Scott.

Nursing Officer Shauna Kilbride is heading the DCU campaign for the demonstration.

“Support for the campaign has been massive, especially from our faculty and link hospitals,” she said.

Finnian Curran

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