DCU nurses want the same support the SU are giving teachers

Cáit Caden, Mikey Walsh and Ellen Fitzpatrick

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

Nursing students in DCU are seeking the same support from the university’s Students’ Union as Teaching students are receiving. 

This comes as the DCUSU plan to lobby the government to secure pay for student teachers while on placement.

Among others, General Nursing Class Rep Jessica Collins emailed DCUSU VP for Education and Placement Craig McHugh, stating they too were suffering financially when on placement.

“To be fair to the student nurses, they want a fair society where student teachers are paid and student nurses are paid and to be honest that’s not a very big ask,” said McHugh.

The first Teacher’s Appreciation Day was held in DCU this year and in the same week DCUSU informed people through social media that they were going to lobby the government to provide financial supports for student teachers, by rallying outside the Dáil.

These supports include Gaelteacht expenses and pay while on placement.

Animosity grew towards the SU as the Teacher Appreciation Day was associated with a student teacher campaign and there was not a “student nurse campaign attached to the Nurses Appreciation Day,” said McHugh.

“The day in Pats is not linked to the campaign. That campaign is separate. It just so happened that they fell within a week of each other. It wasn’t done on purpose,” explained McHugh.

McHugh stated he personally thought this was “nice timing” but it “backfired”.

An official DCUSU led campaign will be launched this Tuesday for student teachers in the college and there is a campaign lined up for student nurses in the New Year, according to McHugh.

Collins echoed this by writing on the DCU Nursing Facebook page that she was informed there will be a campaign for student nurses in semester two which will involve both the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and DCUSU.

Currently, DCU nurses receive a €20 weekly travel allowance for placement. Collins stated in her email to McHugh that this “doesn’t suffice” when some placements can be as far away as Dalkey.

McHugh explained that most of the emails he received from nurses recently regarding the issue were primarily from first and second years. These students were not in college when DCUSU worked with the USI to achieve a raise in of the minimum hourly rate paid to nurses for €6.59 to €9.49, said McHugh.

However, “this wage is still not a living wage,” said McHugh in a response email to Collins.

“Student teachers have not been paid anything for their time on placement, ever,” said primary school teacher and recent DCU graduate Luke Ruddy.

“During my time in college I did not receive any monetary allowance relating to placement. There is an allowance set up called the SAF (student assistance fund) I think, which can be useful for students in supplementing their income, if any,” he continued.

McHugh stated that DCU’s Institute of Education is the largest faculty of education in the country and also one of the largest faculties of education in Europe.

Despite this, the SU have “never actually been able to do anything for teachers in general. We never had a proper campaign,” said McHugh.

“We did have the student teacher placement report last year. This is an action point from that,” he added.

“The student teachers actually haven’t had any improvements in their life since the austerity budget began,” said McHugh.

“They’ve never gotten a scrap of pay” and “grants have been taken away from them,” he explained when talking about the supports student teachers get.

A recent campaign has been set up by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) to highlight the problems arising in nurses’ working conditions.

“The issue here is not with Craig or DCUSU. The issue is about student nurses working 39 hours a week unpaid. That is the main point I will be raising with anyone,” said Collins.

“We want to keep nurses in Ireland and to be able to live and work fairly in our own country,” she continued.

McHugh reiterated his support for student nurses several times yet also stated that the SU “can’t go out and say that: ‘We on behalf of student nurses of Ireland..,’ because we do not represent the student nurses of Ireland, we represent the student nurses of DCU”.

An open letter by student nurses of Ireland was given to Minister for Health Simon Harris explaining the difficult work conditions nurses are forced to work in, such as working “a total of 1645 hours without pay from first to fourth year”. Nurses are then paid minimum wage when they reach fourth year.

“Student nurses do have to do a lot of the jobs that nobody wants to do like washing patients, changing patients, that kind of thing. I think that’s why they feel like they have to get paid for it,” said DCU Nursing student Ali Hennessy.

“DCU have kind of been fighting for student nurses to have better quality of work for years. It’s just kind of becoming the background because it’s an ongoing thing,” she continued.

“I will do my utmost best for student teachers to be paid and student nurses to be paid,” said McHugh. He added that “in this moment in time” they are focusing on certain needs DCU student teachers have.

“I’m all for the SU supporting the teachers. I think now is the time to start a campaign with the nurses too though,” said fellow DCU Nursing student Kathy Breen.


Cáit Caden, Mikey Walsh and Ellen Fitzpatrick

Image Credit: kcr.ie