Cold comfort on medical points race


When it comes to chart toppers, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine are always in the top 10 of the CAO wish list. And the paramedical/healthcare courses - such as physiotherapy, optometry, speech therapy, radiography and occupational therapy - are just as popular. Places are limited so the unfortunate knock-on effect is that the points are invariably very high.

Nursing is outside the CAO system but is also very much in demand. A new competition for nursing places has just been announced and details are given below.

The Commission on the Points System notes that the level of competition for places on healthcare courses is not unique to Ireland. This is cold comfort for students who might be thinking of pursuing their ambitions overseas.

And if you think competition for places on healthcare courses is steep for school-leavers, spare a thought for mature applicants. The commission notes that fewer than 2 per cent of all those accepted into healthcare courses in 1998 (11 out of 609) were mature students and of these, five were accepted on the basis of Leaving Cert results.

It should be noted that 13 per cent of places on these courses were accepted by A-level candidates, 27 per cent by repeat Leaving Cert students and 57 per cent by first-time Leaving Certificate applicants.

In the case of some courses, a minority of places went to first-time Leaving Certificate applications - for instance, the Points Commission notes that 38 per cent of successful applicants for TR051 (medicine in TCD) and 30 per cent of applicants for TR052 (dentistry in TCD) were first-time Leaving Cert candidates.

There are 305 places available annually for school-leavers in human medicine courses in Ireland. A submission to the Points Commission by Dr Martin Newell, secretary of the CAO, suggests that applicants should first complete a preliminary third-level course in life sciences and then compete for places. While this would shift the pressure from school-leavers, it could be argued that it would only delay the competition.

The commission also recommends there be a regular review of places on courses where the numbers have been capped. It says the key institutions involved in policy-making on healthcare training should set up a committee to explore the submission by Dr Newell.

At certificate/diploma level there were eight courses which required more than 395 points last year. Five of these were healthcare courses - medical lab sciences in DIT (395 points), Cork IT (430 points) and Galway/Mayo IT (420 points) and physiology/health at Carlow IT (400 points).

Applicants for the certificate in medical lab sciences should note that a degree is the minimum qualification required by the Department of Health so the two-year add-on degree is essential. In effect, you are applying for a five-year course.

College Choice will return to individual healthcare courses again.


Nurse education is currently offered outside the CAO system so you must apply separately. Details of the latest competition were announced yesterday.

The number of places available for student nurses has been increased by 300 to 1,500. This year, for the first time, there will be a single competition for all three disciplines - general, psychiatry and mental handicap nursing.

Competition for places is always keen. Last year, there were 5,591 applicants for a total of 812 places in general nursing and 254 places in psychiatric nursing. Mental handicap places were handled separately with 149 places filled.

Nursing is still predominantly seen as a career for a woman. Last year, 3,848 girls sitting the Leaving Cert and 350 boys applied for general and psychiatric nursing with 1,066 female mature applicants and 305 male mature applicants. Of course, nursing as a career is equally suited to men and women and traditional stereotypes do not have to limit your choice of career.

The competition for places on the three-year college-associated diploma is being handled by the Nursing Careers Centre. Application packs can be obtained by phoning 1890 201065.

If you want to study nursing, you should be at least 17 years of age on June 1st, 2000. You must also meet the minimum requirements of An Bord Altranais and the affiliated third-level institutions. If you are over 23 years of age on January 1st 2000 and do not meet the minimum educational requirements, you may apply as a mature student.

Bord Altranais requires school-leavers to have a minimum of two higher-level C3s and four Ds at ordinary or higher level in the following subjects: English or Irish (not foundation level Irish); maths (not foundation level), a lab science subject (biology, physics, chemistry, physics and chemistry (joint) or agricultural science); three other subjects (which may include English or Irish and a lab science subject not already included).

Each nursing school is affiliated to a third-level college and some of these lay down additional requirements. A full list of these requirements can be found at They are also listed in the application pack.

The selection process will involve an assessment test to be held in April with successful applicants called to interview in July. Offers of places will be made to successful applicants following the release of Leaving Cert results and a satisfactory medical report.

Last year, 3,418 of the 5,591 applicants passed the assessment test. Then, 2,662 passed the next hurdle - the interview. Six hundred of these did not fulfil the Leaving Cert requirements. The remaining eligible 2,062 applicants were then ranked and places were offered accordingly.

If you get a place this year, your tuition fees will be paid by the Department of Health and Children. All student nurses are entitled to a non-means-tested grant of £3,250 per annum, text books to the value of £250, free meals and some travel allowances. Each school of nursing has an accommodation officer who will help student nurses find suitable accommodation.

A number of new nursing schools have been announced. The Western Health Board is establishing a new integrated school of general and psychiatric nursing at Castlebar General Hospital/St Mary's Hospital. The new school will have an annual intake of 50 students (40 general and 10 psychiatric) and will be linked to Galway/Mayo IT. The Southern Health Board school of general nursing at Tralee General Hospital has been redesignated, with an annual intake of 40 students, linked to Tralee IT while the North-Eastern Health Board regional school of psychiatric nursing at St Davnet's hospital, Monaghan/St Brigid's Hospital, Ardee, is being reactivated with an annual intake of 25 students, linked to Dundalk IT.

The three-year diploma consists of 86 weeks' clinical instruction, 58 weeks' theoretical instruction and 12 weeks' holidays. Students nurses are not part of the hospital staff, they participate to learn. Nurse supply is in crisis at present, so the jobs scene for qualified nurses is extremely good.

Open days Rathmines Senior College

Rathmines Senior College is inviting students to attend their annual open day on Thursday, February 3rd, from 1.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.

The college offers a wide range of courses in its three schools: accounting, business and computer studies; marketing, journalism and public relations and the school of business administration. Students may submit their application forms on the day. No deposit is required and the college will interview and offer places in May. This means you could have a place secured before you sit the Leaving Certificate.

Portobello College

The college open day takes place on Wednesday, January 26th, from 2.00 to 5.00 p.m. The day includes a number of employment-focused presentations, including careers in law, accounting and finance, business and computing.

Engineering at NUI Galway

Prof Jim Browne, dean of engineering in NUI Galway, says almost one quarter of their students enter via common-entry engineering. "Our intention is that those students would have their choice of course at the end of first year. Up to now we have operated that system. We want to be as flexible as we can to accommodate students. However in extremis if there is a tremendous move in one direction we reserve the right to operate quotas but we haven't done so since the introduction of common entry two years ago and we hope we won't have to do so."