Tuesday 25 October 2016

'I have a company car, phone and I get a paid day off every month' - Why this Irish nurse is choosing Oz over home

Amy Molloy

Published 29/09/2016 | 21:04

Kim Rooney has been working as a psychiatric nurse in Australia for almost four years
Kim Rooney has been working as a psychiatric nurse in Australia for almost four years

Irish nurses were protesting outside the Dáil once again this week as they demanded the restoration of wage increments for people who graduated between 2011 and 2015.

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Aside from that, nurses have been taking to social media to highlight how they are feeling undervalued and overworked.

Recently, a Facebook page called Support for Nurses, Midwives and Frontline Staff in Ireland was set up and people have been sending in anonymous stories about their everyday plight in Irish hospitals.

Some Irish nurses aren’t struggling, however. Well, the ones who have emigrated, that is.

Kim Rooney has been living and working as a psychiatric nurse in Australia for almost four years.

She graduated from Dublin City University in 2011 with an honours nursing degree.

With no sign of a permanent job coming around the corner, Kim decided to pack up and leave following a year working at a private hospital in north Dublin.

“I lived with my parents at home when I was working in Ireland and barely had any money to save. Now, in Australia, I pay rent and bills and I have more disposable income than I’ve ever had,” she told Independent.ie.

“I left home first in 2011 just after I had finished my nursing degree. I went backpacking and then I ended up in Australia and I really liked the lifestyle there, so I went home, got a bit more experience and then I came back.”

Irish nurses get four weeks annual leave. Nurses in Australia get six weeks and a paid day off each month.

Along with that, they are offered a number of saving incentives through a scheme called ‘salary sacrificing’. Through this, their salaries are packaged and they get €9,000 towards their rent each year and €5,000 for meals and entertainment.

“I have a company car, a company phone and I get a paid day off every month, it’s such a better way of life for nurses over here,” Kim said.

Speaking to her nursing friends at home, Kim admits that it doesn’t make her long for a return to the Emerald Isle.

“Whenever I speak to my nurse friends, they are always worrying about money and bills and not being able to afford a nice holiday, plus they feel overworked and underappreciated.

“The fear about coming home is the rent prices being so extortionate at the moment. You need a big deposit to buy a house. House prices are rising and car insurance is so expensive,” she lamented.

Kim was recently granted her permanent residency, along with her boyfriend Callum Maxwell, who has been offered a job as a prison officer, a job for which recruitment had been embargoed in Ireland and the UK.

“We’ve both got permanent, stable jobs with an income that enables us to travel home at least once a year and to places all over the world. We are going up the ladder and getting experience that we might not have got at home,” she said.

While she misses her friends and family back home, Kim said there isn’t much incentive to come back to work in Ireland, particularly with more potential strikes looming.

“It’s difficult not to see my niece and godchildren growing up,  but I’m not sure about the job prospects available at home, and I’ve a much better chance of getting a mortgage here.”

This week Liam Doran, General Secretary of the INMO, said he would not rule out strike action before the end of the year.

"We are in a crisis with a shortage of nurses and midwives in this country. One of the reasons is a failure to grant this incremental credit.

If it isn't granted, we will take whatever steps we need to take to ensure our nurses are treated equitably. What we have now is grossly inequitable. It has to be reversed."

Nurses are calling for an incremental credit to be restored for those who graduated between 2011 and 2015. These graduates earn up to €1,400 less than their colleagues who graduated before or after this time period.

In the Facebook group, one nurse wrote:

"I can barely feed my daughter and I cannot pay my car tax/insurance, my electricity, I often stay freezing cold in the winter because I can’t afford to put the heating on. I don’t buy myself any clothes, my socks are full of holes (no joke), I have a non-existent social life because I simply can’t afford to go anywhere (no exaggeration).”

Statistics were released earlier this year showing that 1,000 Irish emigrants are returning home each month, but out of those 1,000 people, how many of them are Irish nurses.

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