Student Nurses & Midwives protest outside Dáil Éireann

Christine O'Mahony

Christine O'Mahony

Student nurses and Midwives from across the country travelled to the Dáil yesterday for a protest organised by the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO).

 Some could not make their voices heard, due to being on placement. 

Representatives showed solidarity from multiple colleges and their Students’ Unions, most notably: DCU, UCD, TCD, UCC, NUIG, GMIT, DKIT and LYIT.  

Multiple TDs also came out to support the nurses and midwives, with Sinn Féin revealing that they have proposed a motion to “deliver fair pay allowance for student nurses and midwives.”

 This was discussed in the chamber after the protest.  

USI President, Clare Austick, who spoke at the protest said “Student Nurses and Midwives work very hard on the frontline and there is very little thanks given to them. Today we stand with our Student Nurses and Midwives who have been overlooked, neglected, forgotten about and are not nearly as appreciated as they should be.”

“We are here to highlight the dismissive and unjust treatment of our student nurses and midwives across the country during the pandemic. Student nurses and midwives deserve better.”

“The last 20 months have been extremely hard and challenging during the global pandemic. But student nurses and midwives have been on the frontline and have been our heroes, who put their own lives at risk, and there has been very little gratitude shown at all. They need to get as much recognition as possible… The government need to take leadership and direction and support our student nurses and midwives and it starts today!”

“In May 2021, the USI contributed to the McHugh report/review (long term independent review of financial supports for Student nurses and midwives). Our Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly received this on the 12th of August and it has still not been published. Student nurses are forced to pay for accommodation on their placement, they are paying for taxis, some have been kicked out from their accommodation because they were working on the frontline… these are all issues student nurses and midwives face”, concluded Austick as she thanked student nurses, midwives and those who came out to support them.  

The College View got an exclusive interview with Clare Austick after her speech. “Student Unions would let us know that their student nurses and midwives are completely overworked and that they are not receiving any support from the colleges, which means that they are not really being supported by the government.”

 “So, there are 1000s of student nurses and midwives over the last 20 months during the global pandemic that are completely burnt out and they are not getting the appreciation and the thanks that they deserve. We need to make sure that the McHugh report is published and those recommendations are implemented and taken on board. Today was about highlighting all the work that student nurses have done and trying to give back to them.”

When asked if the USI has a specific salary in mind for student nurses and midwives, Austick replied, “we would also elevate the calls of our members and our students and work with the INMO together to see what is the best kind of standard for that. We need a lot more financial support for students”.   

The College View also spoke to TCD student nurses: Sarah Reynolds, Claire Bagnall, Monica Dalton and Orla Walsh. 

 “We are currently in 4th year, protests like this have been going on since we were in 1st year. No one notices that we are protesting, because if we were to protest from placement, then we will fail our course. So, they don’t actually see the significant amount of us on placement.”

“Most of our class are in lectures at the moment and the others are on placement, so nobody can actually be here today. We can’t really strike, you will never notice the full significance of student nurses because if we miss an hour, we have to pay that back, every single minute back, we don’t have sick leave. The best we get is the travel allowance which is €20 a week and that doesn’t cover a lot of people who are commuting for external placements which can be anywhere”. 

“I was sent to Cavan before,” Reynolds revealed. “I was sent to Drogheda, and you have to find your own accommodation as well,”Walsh stated. 

When asked if the €100 that Stephen Donnelly promised had  materialised, Reynolds replied “No, and a lot of people got taxed wrongly on that, so they just took it away completely and still €100 a week is not enough. That’s gone now, they ended that 3 months later”. 

“In terms of a wage, we would love to start off with the salary of a Health Care Assistance (HCA) which is like €13 an hour, or something close to that”, concluded the four student nurses.  

The College View did another group interview with DCU Intellectual Disability student nurses Ciarán Harkin and Sam Cole. “We are protesting today because of unfair treatment of student nurses and midwives and we just want a pay increase at this stage. It is ridiculous that the government is ignoring us so we just want recognition for what we have done. Because of cross-contamination we are not allowed work to support ourselves or our families, we have long placements and it’s way too long to go without a part time job”, revealed Harkin. 

Both Harkin and Cole revealed that they were fortunate enough to not suffer from Covid-19 while on placement. 

When asked what sort of pay they expect, “Literally anything is better than nothing.” Cole said. 

Christine O’Mahony

Image Credit: Christine O’Mahony