Money will not solve the Irish nurse’s problem, says DCU Professor

Áine O'Boyle

Image Credit: Photocall Ireland

Nursing disputes will not be resolved through an across the board pay increase according to DCU Professor of Health Systems.

Professor Anthony Staines of DCU said on Newstalk Breakfast that “it’s going to require a lot more thought as to what nurses do, expanding the role of nurses, changing elements of how nurses are managed, to improve the quality of working life for nurses in Ireland”.

Despite the benefits  of increased wages for nurses, the issue remains that they are paid less than other healthcare professions.

Regarding other European countries, Irish nurses are relatively well paid, but when compared to countries such as Australia and Canada, the salary gap becomes evident.

INMO [Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation] conversations have mostly been about staff nurses in hospitals and the relationship between their pay scales and those of other health care professionals and obviously the pay cuts they previously experienced” said Staines.

“There are challenges recruiting nurses with particular skills and there is a dependency on agency nurses and nurses from outside the European Union,” he continued.

A survey carried out by the Public Service Pay Commission highlights that while nurses felt engaged by their work and felt that they had an impact, there were high rates of burnout and strong feelings that they were out of the loop at work, alongside considerable dissatisfaction with their pay rates.

According to the survey, although nurses valued their work, they were unhappy with staffing levels, the consistent busyness of their jobs and felt that this culminated to create a risk for both staff and patients.

The issue of staff turnover in the nursing profession remains unclear.

“We don’t have reliable figures for turnover which is a real problem and the Public Service pay report comments very unfavourably on that, but there’s no suggestion that turnover is extraordinarily high in nursing, the issue of recruiting is much more challenging,” said Staines.

Introducing wage increases for nurses merely skims the top of the problem as the issues stem further down towards the recruitment and retention of nursing staff.

Suggestions made by the Slaintécare Implementation Strategy, to work towards the reformation of the hospital system and relieve the burden of work placed upon nurses to other sectors of the healthcare system, hint towards the resolution of the nursing disputes once coupled up alongside pay increases.

Áine O’Boyle

Image Credit: Photocall Ireland