Student nurses have empty purses

The work that student nurses do can often be rewarding but the pay they receive is often less than stellar. Photo credit:

They wear a uniform and their feet pound the same floors each and every day. They comfort patients, provide them with the care that every person deserves. They look after your mother, brother, father and sister, and they do this all for free.

Student nurses work in the same hospitals and clinics as staff nurses, often doing the exact same work as a qualified nurse while in their third and fourth year of training. Student nurses are expected to provide quality care, at the level of their professional counterparts, even though they receive no wage in return.

The treatment that student nurses receive is a “sore topic” among that very group, said 4th year Paediatric and General Nursing student Sarah Scanlan. While on their placements, student nurses do a full working week worth of hours, and all for no pay.

During their first and second years the students only observe while on their placements, but it is different during the third and fourth year. “[In] third and fourth year you’re a member of the team, have your own patients, administer meds, write notes, stay late to handover all for free”, said Scanlan.

The students have no issues with the fact that they have to do work as they are training for their future career, but the lack of a wage for what they do is a problem. Many students work extra jobs in order to make ends meet. “A lot of us work in shops or doing Health Care Assistant agency work which means you end up working 60+ hour weeks on top of your assignments,” said Scanlan.

Out of all of the branches in nursing, Psychiatric Nursing students bear the brunt of this lack of pay. Other nursing students can claim back travel expenses, but those in psychiatry receive only “€13.70 per week” according to 3rd year Psychiatric Nursing student Darren Gallagher.

Students are paying to go on their placements, instead of them being paid to do the work. “Cost of getting to placement is huge. Travel can cost up to €70-80 per week for some of the placements, such as [the Central Mental Hospital in] Dundrum,” said Gallagher.

The public are often quick to criticise nursing staff and students, saying that they are not doing enough, when in fact they are run off their feet during every shift. “You feel undervalued. You work so hard for nothing (pay wise – obviously you feel good when you’re able to help someone). We are all just exhausted,” said Scanlan.

Student nurses are literally the future of healthcare. If Ireland wants to continue to have quality nurses treating the nation’s sick, then it is time to treat the student nurses fairly too.

Grainne Jones

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