Student nurses protest starting salary
Student nurses gathered at Leinster House to call for an increase to their starting salary of €22,000.
They claimed the graduate salary, which works out to less than the minimum wage at just €6.49 per hour, is forcing them to emigrate.
While graduate nurses earned a salary of €26,000 in 2011, that figure has since dropped by €4,000, while pay increments have also been frozen.
Graduates who apply to the HSE's Graduate Nursing Scheme must now also complete a two year part-time certificate, which includes night classes and assignments on top of their 39 hour working week.
Sarah Farrell, 31, a second year mature student at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), said she is “scared” at the prospect of trying to live on just €22,000 upon graduation.
The mother-of-one from from Knockylon in Dublin said: “I’ve tried to think how on earth that €22,000 after four years of studying is going to support the two of us. It just won't.”
Ms Farrell is four weeks into her 14 weeks of unpaid work experience, which she must complete as part of her second year.
“It's been a complete eye opener to see what's been going on in the hospitals, and how hard the nurses are working, and the pressure, and how understaffed they are, but yet how positive they still are with all their patients,” she told the Irish Independent.
John Connor, 21, from Mayo, who is also studying nursing at TCD, said there isn’t enough incentive for students after completing the four year degree.
“There isn't much incentive to stay in Ireland after the four years, and it angers me, and it's really sad, because I would like to stay here. But if my work and my dedication to nursing isn't valued here, I wouldn't have a choice.”
Nursing student Emma Day, 21, from Lucan, said that nurses sacrifice a lot during the four years, and described the workload as “enormous”.
Ms Day said emigrating is “very appealing”, but said that it was a “big ask” to expect graduates to make the move.
“When you think how people's families with be affected, relationships, they leave behind friends, it's a big ask to move to a different country when you've had your education here,” she said.
President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Joe O'Connor said that hospitals and patients place a much larger value on nurses than the salary they are paid.
He said graduates could earn up to twice as much if they choose to emigrate to other countries, including up to €43,614 in Canada, but warned that it would have “knock-on implications” for the Irish healthcare system.