'We work so hard to be so poor' - three nurses tell us why they're striking with thousands nationwide today

Nurses Lisa Kelly, Anna Murphy and Margaret Keohane explain why they are on the picket line

From left to right: Lisa Kelly (36) from Dublin, Margaret Keohane (46) from Cork and Anna Murphy (19)

Rachel Farrell

THOUSANDS of nurses across the country are on the picket line today, despite freezing temperatures and a risk of snow.

More than 35,000 nurses have walked out in front of hospitals nationwide today after a last-ditch attempt to avert industrial action in the row over their demand for pay parity.

We spoke to three nurses in Ireland about why they're taking part in the strike today, how it feels to leave their patients, and what changes need to happen.

Lisa Kelly (36) Dublin: "I don't do my job for money... but I got up one morning and my electricity was gone"

"I don’t do my job for the money. The other night I kept waking after a long day in work, thinking about a patient that passed away and then dreaming about her when I fell back asleep. Money does not come in to that, wages don’t have any place in the care you give or the patients that affect you. I was a teenage mother, I’ve never had money so I’m okay with that.

"I did my four-year degree, I did my post grad for a year and have just finished another four-month course. I do these courses so I know more, so I can give my patients better care, so I’m better at my job.

Lisa Kelly (36) from Dublin has spent over five years upgrading her training as a nurse.

"None of us want to strike. Non-emergency surgeries and procedures are cancelled every single day because of lack of beds and lack of staff. They will be cancelled on Wednesday like they’re cancelled all year round, only this time the Government is telling people about it. Skeleton staff will be in place. We’re all worried what will happen when we walk out, about the extra strain on doctors and carers and porters, and especially about our patients.

"We are at breaking point. All weekend we were short staffed. I got up one morning and my electricity was gone. I haven’t paid my daughter's mock fees. It’s three days until pay day and all the money will be gone within three days on bills. We work so hard to be so poor.

"We’re not looking for an increase, we are looking for our 12pc restored that was taken from us in cutbacks. Stop young nurses emigrating so we don’t do two people’s work for one person's pay.

"No matter what comes of it we will still care for our patients the same, we will still work as hard, but we will feel like we are as appreciated as the OTs and physios, we will feel acknowledged.

"Our staffing numbers will improve making it safer for our patients and we might even have the petrol to make it to work."

Anna Murphy (19) Kildare: "Nursing students are often seen as an extra pair of hands"

"As cliché as it sounds, I think every nurse has a calling.

"Whether it be a call to care for someone until they get back on their feet or the privilege of holding someone's hand when they take their final breathe. The fundamental want to care, to show compassion and kindness is deeply rooted in our being and cannot be taught.

"As a nursing student we see the ins and outs of the struggles that qualified nurses are undertaking each day. As a student nurse you learn to read people very quickly, by reading these qualified nurses you can see them being emotionally and physically burned at both ends. Working with the fear that their nursing registration is in jeopardy due to the conditions they are enduring.

Anna Murphy (19) is a student nurse from Co Kildare, currently on hospital placement abroad.

"It is often seen that nursing students are used as an extra pair of hands to facilitate the shortage of staff. While training in a hospital in January 2018, nursing students were required to attend a class in the student education building. I remember my nurse manager, who was doing her ultimate best to run the ward in the most efficient way possible, ringing my tutor to inform we couldn’t attend due to how short-staffed they were and that we needed to stay and undertake morning obligations.

"On this particular morning the ratio was one nurse to 10 patients of varying needs and a lack of resources. These dangerous and unsuitable working environments are not an unusual occurrence and is seen regularly on each ward.

"As a student for less than two years I will not pretend to know every struggle a nurse goes through, because I do not. We are still, to an extent, sheltered by the term ‘trainee’ however we are not naive to the truth. All we know is that we want a higher standard. We want to remain hopeful that we can have the choice to stay at home with our families and give care in Ireland, to the Irish people, but change has to be made.

"As a nursing student we are always told when you feel numb by loss it's time to leave the profession however, we are not numb to the unfairness and injustice of the current health care conditions nurses are undertaking daily. Every nurse, no matter where in the world wakes up in the morning wanting to care for someone who needs their help, but Irish nurses are growing weary without the support they need and failing to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Margaret Keohane (46) Cork:  "We've spent our whole career looking after your families, now we need you to look after us"

Margaret Keohone (46) from Cork has been qualified as a nurse for 25 years.


"It is with a heavy heart that I am participating with strike action today. I don’t know one nurse that wants to be on strike, but we have been left with no other choice.

"I qualified as a nurse almost twenty-five years ago.

"My ward will run as normal and to full capacity albeit it with only five nurses. But unfortunately, this isn’t the first time it has operated under these conditions. Relief lines and sick leave are now more than often not replaced. Our patient to nurse ratio is constantly increasing. This is not safe practice for patients or nurses.

"This is the main reason that we have been left with no option but to take to the picket lines today. We are exporting our amazing nurses to every country in the world and can’t offer them any incentive to come back home.

"Every single INMO nurse will be at their work place today, either working under massive constraints, taking care of our patients or picketing. Enough is enough. Please show your support.

"We have spent our whole careers looking after your families and we are honoured to be able to do so. But now we need you to look after us, as we are now near breaking point, which in turn has led us to this action."