Many student nurses still aren’t being paid and it simply is not good enough

The times we are currently living in are strange enough as a student, however, for those who are studying within the medical profession such as nurses, times are even stranger. For student nurses in Ireland, some of their first experiences of working in their chosen career will be the toughest weeks or months they will possibly ever experience due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Contrary to what many people think, student nurses on placement are not getting paid. Simon Harris announced recently that student nurses will be getting paid but this was misinterpreted by many people. Those who are completing placement as part of their college degree will not be getting paid, however, those who sign a contract to help during the crisis and are not doing it as part of their degree will be getting paid. 

Considering these students are being thrown into the deep end, this is simply not good enough. Many students have given up part time jobs to be able to complete their unpaid placement and now must rely on parents to pay rent and provide a living for them. Others are commuting between two to five hours a day to get themselves to work if renting isn’t an option financially. 

However, this is on a good day without a life-threatening pandemic. Not to mention that some student nurses may have asthma, autoimmune diseases or anything that may put them into the high-risk category. 

We also must take into consideration the staff shortages, meaning all nurses are completely run off their feet and student nurses can’t always seek help in the hospitals or even ask questions. Simply put, paying people also ensures a higher level of productivity.

Unpaid internships and placements are known to many as something you just have to do to get your degree. However, considering the circumstances, this should not be the norm. Ireland has become too relaxed when it comes to unpaid labour to the point where some students are ecstatic when they learn they will receive 100 euro in expenses for working 40 hours. 

If a student nurse contracts Coronavirus during their unpaid placement, they are required to make up any days that they missed meaning they are taking more time out after recovering from a serious illness. 

Student nurses want to help as much as they can, but this is sometimes difficult for those in single parent families or those who have parents that can’t afford to help financially. Some students have no choice but to continue working over 20 hours in their part time job to pay for transport, rent and food meaning some are working over 60 hours a week. 

If a person is seen as an essential worker in the medical field and are saving lives, then why aren’t they being paid? Clapping for the HSE is all well and good but paying student nurses would be better. 

Roisin Maguire

Image credit: DFID