Few health boards at fair to woo nurses

ONLY three of the country’s 10 health boards are represented at a major nursing recruitment fair in Dublin, at a time when hospitals are recruiting nurses from abroad to ease staffing shortages.

The Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA), which has the Northern, East Coast and South Western Area health boards under its wing, found that packages offered by hospitals in Britain and the US were hard to beat.

More than 1,000 student and qualified nurses are expected to attend the two-day recruitment exhibition in the RDS with hundreds availing of the free bus service laid on by the organisers Irish Nurse Magazine.

Jim Brown, managing director of Strathayr Publishing Limited, publishers of Scottish Nurse and Irish Nurse Magazine, said he was disappointed that more Irish hospitals did not avail of their invitation to attend the exhibition, although a number did attend their exhibition in Glasgow.

Batt O'Keeffe TD, chair of the Dáil Committee on Health and Children, said it was bizarre that 75 student nurses from Tralee Institute of Technology travelled to the exhibition on one of the free buses to be interviewed for jobs in Britain.

At a time when the State had a major nursing shortage were we going down the brain drain route as we did with medical doctors training them and then exporting them, he asked.

Mr Brown said nurses were being encouraged to work in the US because the pay and conditions were extremely attractive. Nurses were being offered a special bonus payment when they started and could also expect to receive a retention payment later on. Some British hospitals were able to organise shifts so the nurses could avoid moving home by availing of the cheap flights instead.

Muriel Carroll was among a group of 50 student nurses who travelled on one of the free buses from Tralee General Hospital in Co Kerry. Ms Carroll was especially interested in working in a New York hospital. Like a lot of nurses, she is interested in travelling abroad and was disappointed that there was no stand representing Australian hospitals.

Muriel, who will qualify as a nurse in September, believed she would be a more attractive candidate for a position in an Irish hospital if she gained valuable nursing experience abroad first.

Another student nurse at Tralee General Hospital, June Flood, also due to qualify in September, was considering her options whether to get a job or continue studying for a degree in nursing.

The ERHA was offering positions in hospitals where nurses wanting to pursue a degree course would be supported. That was one option that June was considering, but an obvious downside was the cost of accommodation in Dublin.

She said that hospitals in London were offering a special accommodation allowance.

Mari Lyn Go from the Philippines works in a hospital in Kildare. She has just completed the first of a two-year contract with the hospital. While she is happy to stay working in Ireland she did not know if her contract would be renewed.

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