A student nurse says it does not make sense that they can be paid during the summer as healthcare assistants, but not as nurses during the year.
It comes after fourth year student nurse Ralph, who contracted COVID-19, told Lunchtime Live on Wednesday that they are putting their lives on the line.
“I’ve always said that this is an issue that’s gone under the public’s nose, to an extent, that people I’ve talked to have never actually realised that student nurses were never paid to begin with.
“But also that they’re not even being paid during a pandemic”.
“I have suffered and got COVID-19 from working on placement as a student and I was not paid.
“I don’t want to sound dramatic, but there are people who are putting their lives on the line for this and for nursing as students and they’re not being paid”.
Áine is a fourth student nurse and she told Lunchtime Live that nurses will continue to leave the country “in droves” under this system.
“None of us expected to be training during a global pandemic”, she said.
She said she is about to begin an internship, which has more responsibility and less pay than her summer job.
“I’m just finished a six-week supernumerary placement, I’m finishing up my academic side of my learning now and I’ll start my internship in January.
“I worked during the summer as a student nurse, but in the capacity as a healthcare assistant in a COVID ICU and I was paid as a healthcare assistant.
“So now I’ll start my internship in January with more responsibility, a patient load, essentially taking a pay cut to minimum wage”.
The INMO has sent out a petition with three requests: that intern nurses are paid the same healthcare assistant rates that they were paid in the summer, to increase supernumerary allowances, and to provide health and safety supports for students who do become sick.
The petition is set to be presented to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Áine said student nurses contracting the coronavirus is becoming more common.
“I know you spoke to students yesterday who had contracted COVID – I’ve a lot of friends, it’s not an uncommon story.
“And so many off us are really at-risk and working in an environment that is unsafe.”
She said she does it because “it’s a great honour actually to serve your country during this time”.
“Not to sound cheesy about it, it really is a great honour – but students are really, really struggling.
“In theory we’re supposed to be supernumerary, in reality that is not happening”.
She said patients are the ones who are actually suffering.
“Our argument is that a healthcare assistant salary was sufficient for us when we were working during the summer… but now when we’re going in in our internship in January – and we’ll be having far more responsibility, we’ll be working independently, we’ll be accountable for our practice – and they’re going to pay us less”.
“At the end of the day it’s the patients who are suffering in this health service.
“The recruitment and retention problem is not new to COVID, it’s pre-existing, and nurses are going to continue to emigrate in droves”.