Covid surge: Pausing student nurse training ‘the right thing to do’

Training for first, second, third-year students being suspended ‘just for a few weeks’

More than 2,000 student nurses and midwives will see their clinical training placements in public hospitals suspended for two weeks from Monday by the Department of Health due to the impact of the pandemic on staffing levels. File photograph: Getty

More than 2,000 student nurses and midwives will see their clinical training placements in public hospitals suspended for two weeks from Monday by the Department of Health due to the impact of the pandemic on staffing levels. File photograph: Getty

 

Suspending hospital training for student nurses to free up nursing tutors for frontline work “is the right thing to do”, given the pressures facing the health system, the Minister for Health has said.

Stephen Donnelly said training for first, second and third-year students was being suspended “just for a few weeks” while the health service battles a surge in Covid-19 cases.

More than 2,000 student nurses and midwives will see their clinical training placements in public hospitals suspended for two weeks from Monday by the Department of Health due to the impact of the pandemic on staffing levels.

Mr Donnelly said the suspension would free up “several hundred experienced nurses” at a time when more than 6,000 frontline health staff are unavailable either due to having contracted Covid-19 or being a close contact, at a time when the health services are under a huge amount of pressure.

Final-year students in their internship will continue to work over the coming two weeks, but the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has requested that their pay is increased to the healthcare assistant grade, as it was last March.

Asked about a statement from Siptu about the anger of nurses over the “stunning lack of proper consultation”, Mr Donnelly said “it’s an operational request from the HSE. They’re best placed to know how to deploy the nurses.”

Responding to the move, Siptu organiser Kevin Figgis said they had been inundated with calls from members frustrated over “this sudden change in policy and the potential impact it will have on the provision of essential health care”.

“Members are furious over the stunning lack of proper consultation and say this decision will only deepen the crisis in the health service for students and health care staff working on the frontline.”

Call for clarity

The INMO has called for more clarity on the decision. General secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “This is a last-minute decision and further clarity is needed. Students have been put in incredibly risky situations with no pay and weakened protections.”

The decision is expected to be reviewed towards the beginning of February.

The Department of Health said the HSE had sought that experienced and qualified staff who currently supported undergraduate training for students in years one to three of their courses be released for redeployment as part of the Covid-19 response.

“In light of this development, all clinical placements for student nurses and midwives in years one to three will be suspended for a period of at least two weeks from, January 18th, 2021, as there will be no educational and support infrastructure for them while in the clinical learning environment.”

The students affected are expected to continue to receive their existing educational allowance for accommodation of €50.79 per week of placement, as well as SUSI grants and any pandemic unemployment payments to which some may have been entitled.

The Government has been under pressure for some weeks over payments to student nurses.

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