Sir, – As a newly-qualified nurse, with a first class honours degree in general nursing, I find it hard to take any satisfaction or even be proud of my hard-earned achievement due to the nursing graduate scheme that the HSE is introducing.
For many newly qualified nurses/midwives, employment within HSE-run institutions will now only be possible if we agree to undertake an additional two-year educational programme, on top of the four-year degree we have just completed. This will mean that we will be employed at 85 per cent in year one, and 90 per cent in year two, of the first salary point of the January 2011 staff nurse scale. After several months, the HSE has finally announced the educational component that it will encompass: three educational modules run in conjunction with NUI/Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The modules entail three specific themes: quality and safety; communication and team-work; and patient-centred care, all of which we have already covered extensively as part of our four- year degree and which we will have to take while working a 39-hour week. On completion of the programme we will be awarded a professional certificate in nursing/midwifery (applied professional and clinical development NQF level 9).
The equivalent of this certificate does not appear to exist in other countries, as most graduate certificates are directly linked to specialised areas of health care.
I and my fellow newly qualified nurses/midwives are struggling to understand how this will benefit our nursing careers, or patients within the Irish health system. After four years of studying for an honours degree that includes both academic and clinical learning, we now want to work on the wards, provide a high standard of care to the patients and gain valuable clinical experience, before we decide on pursuing further academic learning and the specialisation we want to take in our careers. The sole objective of this wholly unnecessary qualification is to drive down wages by suppressing newly qualified nurses’/midwives’ salaries for the first two years of their careers. But how much is this scheme really going to save, given the HSE will have to pay institutions to deliver this new qualification?
The healthcare system is already overstretched and overrun and Irish nurses are choosing to emigrate and work in health systems as fully qualified staff nurses where their existing qualifications are valued and respected.
Indeed in England many newly qualified Irish nurses receive a first month’s accommodation and a postgraduate course of their choice paid for. The reality is that once again we have more than 1,600 nurses/midwives, graduating with an honours degree, none of whom are being offered permanent full-time posts in our public health service.
This new scheme will only serve to heighten this trend, one that the Irish health system can ill afford. – Yours, etc,
Tara, Co Meath.