Thursday 29 September 2016

It's very hard to survive on a basic nursing wage

Published 07/04/2016 | 02:30

Nurse Gwen Berney: 'You can teach anyone to be a nurse, but you can't teach anyone how to care' Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick
Nurse Gwen Berney: 'You can teach anyone to be a nurse, but you can't teach anyone how to care' Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick
Brian Condra, who works as a porter in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin Photo: Steve Humphreys

Gwen Berney had a career in retail for a decade before she went back to college to study to become a nurse.

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The mother-of-two from near Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan believes you can teach "anyone to be a nurse but you can't teach anyone how to care".

After working for an agency when she first graduated in 2010, she was delighted to get a full-time job in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in 2012.

Gwen, whose husband Rory is an electrician, says she has to do Sunday premium shifts and night duty to top up her basic pay.

"It's very hard to survive on a nurse's basic wage.

"I got married in 2012 and we got a mortgage. But I would not have got one on my pay alone," she added.

She works in the surgical orthopaedic ward, which can be extremely stressful.

"We have a lot of acutely ill people and a lot of palliative care, which is very difficult and stressful on its own.

"The joint incomes cover the mortgage but when the bills are paid we don't have much else for a social life."

Gwen commented how patients in the hospital who appreciate their good care often remark: "You are not paid half enough."

She added: "We go in every day with the hope we make a difference to one person's day. I walk out of work and say I have done the best that I can. You have to really want to do this job."

Manage

Gwen counts herself lucky that her generous in-laws look after little Hannah (2) when she is at work.

"I am very fortunate that I live beside my husband's family and my mother-in-law helps me out. "Without that help, I could not manage childcare costs," she added.

- Brian Condra, who works as a porter in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, earns around €450 a week after tax.

The father-of-three believes there is a general misconception about so-called "unskilled workers" and the type of remuneration they should get.

"Within the public service we are classed as unskilled, but the amount of skills we have is enormous," he said.

"I think porters have a lot of skills, ranging from handling patients to carrying bloods. You have to know how a hospital works." He also pointed out that it can be very physical work.

Brian lives in Drogheda, where his wife Rosie is a nurse - and does not do overtime because of the journey involved. In recent years, he has seen people who were highly qualified so desperate for a job that they took up the two-year intern scheme which was offered by the HSE. "They struggled to make €300 a week but they said it was better than being on the dole," he said.

Brian is now doing further study, and his chosen subjects are politics, sociology and economics at Siptu college. "It's the only way someone like me on the lower rung gets more education," he said.

"At this point, it is no secret every working person is saying they want some money back.

"There is no point in just talking about a recovery."

Irish Independent

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