'Unrealistic and unfair' to expect student nurses to work for free

'Unrealistic and unfair' to expect student nurses to work for free
Student nurse:"Everyone knows health itself is a hazardous occupation, but it’s especially hazardous at the minute"

Some unpaid nursing students have been asked to leave their rented accommodation over fears they will spread infection during the Covid-19 pandemic.

That is according to one student nurse who spoke to the Irish Examiner.

As previously reported, hundreds of student nurses are due to begin mandatory, unpaid work placements in hospitals around the country as the health service braces itself for a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 patients requiring critical care. 

Placement usually causes a lot of additional pressure at the best of times, according to the student, who asked not to be named.

“Everyone knows health itself is a hazardous occupation, but it’s especially hazardous at the minute.

"To expect students to enter that area without pay, it’s unrealistic and unfair," they said.

There are at least six students I know of who have been asked to leave the digs they have been staying in because they have been staying with elderly people or people who are concerned about their own health or the health of their families.

The student has also been asked by their housemates if they have been tested for the virus, despite not beginning their work in a hospital yet.

First, second and third year students have supernumerary status which means that they are not counted as part of the workforce. 

“But a lot of time, despite being supernumerary, student nurses would fill a hole that’s left by a shortage of staff," the student nurse said.

"Coming up to this crisis, you’ll hear everyone from Paul Reid in the HSE to Simon Harris saying that this is going to put our health service under pressure like it’s never seen before."

This isn’t going to just put the HSE under pressure, it’s going to bring it to its knees.

"If our supernumerary status isn’t respected on a normal day when there is immense pressure, we can’t see how they can promise us that it will be during the crisis.

“Students want evidence that they will have safe accommodation for the coming weeks but also after that, they can’t go home to their families. We need somewhere we can safely self-isolate after we finish up for another two weeks." 

Most students will also be out of work for that time as most tend to work in other healthcare settings, like nursing homes, they added. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government is examining the issue of student nurses being expected to work in hospitals without pay, and proposals are expected shortly.

The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment.

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999

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