‘Dubai is not for life’: HSE bid to lure Irish nurses home

The HSE is targeting nurses home for Christmas during a three-day open recruitment drive with walk-in interviews. 

The director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, hopes to tap into the “homing instinct” that often manifests at this time of year, to recruit Irish nurses working abroad.

Many nurses working abroad are in receipt of far higher salaries than they would receive here, however, Mr O’Brien argued that Dubai “is not for life”.

He was speaking yesterday at the launch of the HSE’s National Service Plan for 2017, alongside Minister for Health Simon Harris.

“We are announcing an open recruitment event on December 28, 29 and 30 for nurses and midwives from all disciplines who are interested in working in the Irish health service.

“This will target nurses coming home for the Christmas period and will allow walk-in interviews on the day. This will be the first in a series of career days for nurses throughout 2017,” Mr Harris said.

The three-day drive will take place in the board room of Dr Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin 8. However, the HSE has yet to announce the time slots. The minister acknowledged the public sector pay issue as a challenge to recruiting and retaining nurses who can work abroad for higher salaries.

“While awaiting that work (of the Public Sector Pay Commissions) let me be very clear, nobody in this building or nobody in my department is going to kind of stand around and shrug their shoulders and say: ‘sure we can’t do anything about recruitment until the public sector pay commission reports’,” he said.

When Mr Harris and Mr O’Brien were asked why nurses would choose to take a job here on a lower salary, they said that some of our emigrants want to return home eventually.

“You’re right to point out that we’re operating in an internationally competitive environment and Irish nurses are highly-trained and highly sought-after and are offered extraordinary packages to work in various places.

“Dubai is okay for a while, but it’s not for life you know?” Mr O’Brien said.

“One of the things that many industries do is take the opportunity of the homing instinct that manifests itself at between Christmas and the New Year,” he said.

“Many people like me often have an instinct to return, often have an instinct to work in public service and to contribute to the society they grew up in and that trained them and that’s part of the appeal,” the HSE chief said.

Mr Harris also said that for nurses who are already working in the Irish system, there will be career opportunities made available to them in 2017.

“My department will also launch new policies, very early in 2017, to try and provide more attractive career pathways for our nurses.

“This will involve radically reducing the length of time it takes for nurses to qualify as specialists or as advanced nurse practitioners,” the minister said.

Mr Harris did emphatically state, however, that “a real conversation” was needed in relation to staffing numbers.

“We need to address staffing levels within our health service. We need to address it in the medium to long term. We need to look at issues in relation to nurses and doctors and retention and recruitment,” he said.

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