Thursday 17 January 2019

'There are far too many patients for one nurse to look after safely' - Nurse who wants to leave profession

‘Looking for parity’: Nurse Catherine O’Connor at INMO headquarters in Dublin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
‘Looking for parity’: Nurse Catherine O’Connor at INMO headquarters in Dublin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Anne-Marie Walsh

A young nurse who has been working for the past three years in the Mater Hospital has said she wants to get out of the profession due to the poor pay.

Catherine O'Connor, who is three years qualified as a general nurse, said that she has gone back to college to change her career.

"I'm working part time at the moment and doing a full-time course to retrain to get out of nursing," the Dubliner said.

"I'm interested in going to psychology. I was trying to think what are the parts of nursing that I like the most.

"It's talking to the patients. You don't get the time to do that any more these days. There are far too many patients for one nurse to look after in a safe manner.

"Pay is a factor because it's at the centre of the poor conditions that we're experiencing at the moment.

"I think if we had better pay for nurses that there would be more nurses on the wards, which would increase the quality of the conditions at the moment, which would then lead to a kind of snowball effect."

Ms O'Connor was speaking as it was revealed that nurses who are set to strike on six dates for pay rises from the end of this month are already in line for pay rises worth up to €2,000 over the next two years, according to the HSE.

But some nurses would benefit by up to €8,700 if they accepted other deals that are on offer, a Government department has revealed.

The HSE said the average staff nurse's earnings were now approximately €53,000 including overtime and allowances. This will rise by around €2,000 to €55,000 by 2020 under the current public sector pay deal, according to a spokesperson.

However, when other agreements on offer are taken into account, the figures are much higher for some nurses according to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Ms O'Connor accepted the sanctions facing nurses if they go on strike - including a pay freeze and delay in wage increases already due - will hit them financially.

"It's obviously not something nurses want to do. It's something that we've been brought to," she said.

"We've thought about it very carefully. We've had numerous talks about it within the INMO ourselves. Obviously there was a very powerful ballot result of 95pc of nurses thinking this way. So it's not just a vocal minority in this case."

She said nurses were paid on average about €7,000 less than every other allied healthcare professional.

"We've the same types of degrees and we work more unsociable hours but we're getting paid less. So we're looking for parity of pay."

Hospital patients face the threat of disruption from January 30 as more than 40,000 nurses are set to go on strike.

The INMO announced a series of stoppages yesterday unless the Government agrees to pay rises and claims that low wages are causing a recruitment crisis.

Its members plan to strike on January 30 for 24 hours and, if the dispute is unresolved, on further dates on February 5, 7, 12, 13 and 14.

The nurses and midwives will provide only life-saving care and emergency response teams during the stoppages.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association, representing another 6,000 nurses, will announce strike dates tomorrow.

However, there was a significant development yesterday as Health Minister Simon Harris issued a statement to invite the INMO to talks next week.

Graduate nurses claimed they are being offered higher wages in the UK and general secretary of the union Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the number of UK employers recruiting nurses would escalate after Brexit.

"The time for goodwill is over," she said.

However, the Government was warned it faces knock-on claims from other public servants if nurses get extra pay.

Paul Bell, of Siptu, said that other workers would "not ignore the fact" if the Government made pay awards outside the terms of the current Public Service Stability Agreement.

Nurses face serious repercussions if they go on strike including delayed pay rises, an increment freeze and loss of a deal worth €3,300 to recruits.

Irish Independent

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