A RECENTLY graduated east Kerry nurse who is facing crippling salary cuts is seriously considering emigrating with her young family to make a living abroad.
Kilcummin native Sheena O'Sullivan (30) was one of 36 nurse graduates and student nurses from Tralee IT attending Saturday's rally in Croke Park to protest against plans to pay graduate nurses 80 per cent of the usual salary for the job.
Sheena, a mature student who graduated from a four-year nursing degree course in September, says that while Australia and Canada are options, England is currently the most realistic destination due to significantly higher salaries and better job opportunities.
"I know of a lot of classmates who have gone to England - your flights are paid for, they set you up with accommodation and you get the option to work in your preferred departments, unlike here."
She says she won't sign up for an 80 per cent contract as it wouldn't be financially viable, particularly as, along with her partner David O'Leary, child minders also have to be paid.
"There is the possibility of working in private nursing homes but those jobs are few and far between," she added.
Sheena, who lives in Anablaha, has two children, three-month-old Ayda and Keelyn (8). She gave up her job as a special needs assistant (SNA) to pursue her nursing dream, but has now discovered she would be no better off working as a nurse than she was in her previous job despite the longer hours and added responsibilities. SNA posts, meanwhile, have also been radically cut.
"I find it ridiculous that, despite grants to cover my studies, the government is making nursing very unattractive even though I want to pay taxes here.
"It's not just about the money, though, as you would be doing the same job and have the same responsibilities as the person working next to you who is earning 20 per cent more."
The HSE recently announced it will lift the public sector recruitment embargo to hire 1,000 graduate nurses. However, the plan will see nursing graduates earn a starting salary of just €22,000, a 39 per cent cut on 2009 salaries, according to unions. The UK starting salary is approximately £30,000.
Killarney- based INMO private sector organiser, Sheila Dickson, says the move will put nursing back 30 years. "It is guised as a graduate scheme but it's just slave labour. Nurse s will be supervising, for instance, catering and cleaning staff but earning less, it's criminal. The demands on the profession are
more than ever."