Hospitals that allow student nurses to treat Covid patients should be investigated as it is "an abuse", the Taoiseach has warned.
Micheál Martin said it was "wrong" for first-year nursing students to treat patients dying from coronavirus.
It comes as the Government faces criticism for "refusing" to pay student nurses, who often work 10 to 13-hour shifts.
Mr Martin said that any cases of student nurses treating Covid-19 patients should be passed to the HSE.
"There should be an investigation, because no first-year student should be treating a Covid patient, which I have said repeatedly," Mr Martin added.
"That is an abuse. No hospital and no director of nursing should enable that to take place, particularly in the second wave of Covid, which did not have the same impact as the first wave on hospitalisations or ICU occupancy."
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said that students nurses had "literally held the hands of dying Covid patients as they took their last breath".
Ms McDonald told the Dáil that nurses had given up paid work because of the risk of cross-infection.
She said: "Over the last eight months, student nurses and midwives have worked incredibly hard in the battle against Covid-19 and the Taoiseach should remember that these students have stepped into the breach and it was the Government that asked them to do so.
"Not alone is this real work and hard work, this is heroic work.
"Student nurses and midwives have plugged the gaps created by decades of bad health policy from Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
"They have been the glue that has held our already strained health service together during the greatest public health emergency in a century.
"Their dedication and work have saved lives that might have been lost. The public knows this and doctors and nurses working with these students know it; the only people who do not seem to get it is the Government."
But Mr Martin denied allegations that his Government had refused to pay student nurses.
He said that nurses rostered for a 10 or 13-hour shift should be paid.
"Nursing directors in hospitals are disputing that and the minister for health is investigating that," Mr Martin added.
"There is a core question here.
"In my view, nurse education is vital for the progression and advancement of the profession so that nurses can take their rightful place in the overall framework within our hospitals."
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said he was left "flabbergasted" after the Taoiseach told students to lodge complaints with the HSE.
"I was flabbergasted at leaders' questions today with the bizarre and desperate attempt by the Taoiseach to spin his way out of uncomfortable truths about the systemic exploitation of student nurses and midwives and his government's shocking refusal to pay them for the work they do on frontlines," Mr Boyd Barrett said.
"The continuing mantra from the Taoiseach that the students are not doing 'real work' is an outrageous insult to these young people, overwhelmingly women, who are at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 on a daily basis."