Work placements suspended for student nurses and midwives

Chloe Donnellan

More than 2,000 student nurses and midwives have had their clinical placements suspended by the Department of Health for at least two weeks. The decision comes as pressure continues to increase on Ireland’s health service and staffing levels as a result of Covid-19.

It is understood that the HSE has called for Clinical Placement Coordinators to be released of their current duties to allow for more senior, qualified staff to be freed up to provide direct patient care.

The change will affect first, second and third-year nursing and midwifery students, as they will not have educational or support infrastructure available to them while fulfilling their clinical education requirements. However, final year students will be able to continue with their internship.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is seeking clarity on the announcement for final year students who will be continuing their internship. INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha stated that “decision and further clarity is needed” on an announcement made on such short notice.

The INMO has insisted that final year student’s pay be increased in alignment with HCA’s grade, as was done previously in March.

The union feel that this increase would act as a reflection of intern’s workload, with the General Secretary pointing out that “students have been put in incredibly risky situations with no pay and weakened protections” and should be “valued more.”

This follows a proposal commissioned by the Department of Health, which will see student nurses and midwives receive €100 per week while on hospital placements during the Covid-19 pandemic, following criticism of exploitation.

The proposed payment has been dismissed by nursing unions, with a 39-hour workweek totaling €2.56 an hour.

A fourth-year student nurse (23), who wishes to remain anonymous, said that in relation to the increased payment of interns;

“All student and intern nurses in every specialty, from pediatric, psychiatric, intellectual disability and general are doing their best to help out as much as they can through staffing issues, all while not seeing their families and losing part-time jobs. The least the government can do is give us a decent wage for the work we’re doing.”

In implementing this suspended placement, the Chief Nursing Officer, Rachel Kenna, is in contact with the HSE, the Higher Education Institutes and the government to minimise the negative impact it may have on student nurses and midwives.

The decision is expected to be reviewed further in early February.

Chloe Donnellan

Image Credit: flickr