The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) have warned that student nurses and midwives are being exploited during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There is an inequality around how nurses and midwives are treated and that includes the students” said Phil Ní Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the INMO
The INMO said on October 16th, students on placement in hospitals “are facing additional Covid risks and are effectively being asked to work as staff for no pay”
“The majority of my friends who are student nurses have been asked not to work by their jobs due to their placement in hospitals” said Aoife Darcy, a student nurse studying in Trinity College.
The INMO said the HSE did set up a scheme in March “to pay many students healthcare assistant salaries” however this was discontinued.
“Over the summer months the number of people with Covid-19 in hospitals reduced and the need to employ the students decreased in the perspective of the HSE” said Ní Sheaghdha.
“Then in September with 3,500 students again on clinical placement, the HSE realised they had a workforce with no pay” she added.
“I’ve always felt exploited,” said Darcy. “I‘ve been employed as a healthcare assistant for the last two years, that HSE scheme made no difference”
“Every other government training such as the Guards are paid, why is our training any different and not valued” she said.
Student nurses however are not only feeling the financial pressure of the pandemic.
According to Ní Sheaghdha, “in August and September a survey was completed by nurses, which showed that a high percentage of nurses are feeling mentally exhausted”
‘This can lead to nurses experiencing mental burnouts” she added.
“Working with Covid was one of the most mentally and physically draining period of my life” said Darcy. “I am worried about my mental health if I get placed in a Covid ward again, I just don’t know if I’ll be able to handle all that death again”
The INMO is currently in talks with the Department of Health to ensure that the exploitation of student nurses is not continued.
“They need to be paid for their work” said Ní Sheaghdha. “The very minimum student nurses need is to have employee status during this time so they have access to occupational health and access to Covid leave so they are not worrying about their finances.”
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