UCC Students' Union highlight the 'financial hardship' of student nurses in letter to Simon Harris

UCC Students' Union highlight the 'financial hardship' of student nurses in letter to Simon Harris

The Students’ Union at University College Cork (UCC) has written to the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris seeking better working conditions for student nurses.

The Students’ Union at University College Cork (UCC) has written to the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris seeking better working conditions for student nurses.

In the letter, which has been posted to social media, the Students' Union spoke of the "significant financial hardship" student nurses are experiencing and called for the introduction of a "fair and sustainable model of pay for student nurses and healthcare workers". 

Before their final year internship, most student nurses and midwives are either unpaid or receive an allowance of just €50.79 per week.

"For many years, student healthcare workers have suffered significantly and this has been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, during which many students have risked their lives on the frontline. 

"First and foremost, nobody should be expected to work for free.

"Student nurses are a vital component in the functioning of the HSE and this important role is not adequately recognised nor rewarded with fair pay by our health system, at present," the Students' Union stated in their letter.

The Students' Union said some students can be placed a "considerable distance from their place of residence" and, as a result, are then forced to pay rent at two separate locations or incur "outlandish travel expenses".

One of the measures they asked the Minister to consider implementing was that any student placed more than 40km from their residential address would receive "relevant support/travel expenses".

They also called for SUSI grants to cover periods of placement outside of the academic calendar.

Last month the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said student nurses and midwives are being "exploited during Covid".

They said a HSE scheme to pay students on healthcare assistant salaries was used at the start of the pandemic in March, but it is no longer operating.

"Our students are being taken for granted. They are facing huge workloads and risking Covid infection. 

"And while they are doing indispensable work, they are getting no financial recognition for their efforts," said INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.

"They do not have the protections provided to employees. 

"While most third-level students are advised to stay off campus and study online, nursing and midwifery students have to attend very dangerous workplaces to fulfil their learning objectives.

"Extra work, serious risk, and other sources of income being cut: student nurses and midwives are getting a raw deal. 

"It is beyond time to respect their contribution and pay them," she continued.

Earlier this week, the Irish Examiner reported that the Department of Health is engaging with trade unions on revising the existing student nurse and midwife allowances for clinical placements and stated that the Department said the process should be completed "in the coming days."

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