News & Media

Can someone please remind Stephen Donnelly that student nurses on the frontline cannot live on applause and platitudes

13 November 2020

Statement by Senator Annie Hoey
Spokesperson on Higher Education, Innovation and Research
Annie Hoey

Labour Spokesperson on Higher Education, Senator Annie Hoey is calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to end the practice of unpaid work by student nurses in hospitals across the country.

Senator Hoey said:

“Since my election to Seanad Eireann, I have raised at every opportunity with the Minister for Health the issue of unpaid work by student nurses who are a vital part of our health system and who have played an invaluable role in keeping the system going during COVID. I have written to him, I have raised it with him in the chamber, I have raised it with him in the Health committee and so far, he has expressed little interest in rectifying the situation.

“The Minister and HSE officials are very quick to praise the work of student nurses and to say how much they value them but consistently refuse to recognise this contribution by paying them.

“We have student nurses working on the frontline treating COVID patients on wards in hospitals all over Ireland, and their only recompense are a few kind words from the Minister and a bualadh bos from the public. It is totally unacceptable.

“There is precedent for some form of payment or stipend in other lines of work. Apprentices and trainee Gardaí are just two examples of frontline workers who are paid during their traineeships. This is even more relevant given that most of these student nurses are women and that this week marked Gender Pay Day.

“2020 has been particularly tough for student nurses as they have not been able to take up paid work in other health care settings due to the risk of cross-contamination from working in another healthcare setting. As a result, student nurses have had to give up any part time work in nursing homes or with care providers that they would normally use to finance their studies.

“The role these nurses play in caring for patients has always been overlooked, but to have come through the public health crisis we are in right now and to continue to do so is beyond comprehension. All work should pay, and essential workers such as nurses shouldn’t have to work in our hospitals for nothing during their studies. Minister Donnelly needs to realise that they cannot live off applause and platitudes and that in order to properly value their contribution, he needs to pay them.