More than 75% of student nurses and midwives ‘may emigrate’

INMO urges HSE to offer graduates better pay and conditions amid offers from overseas

More than three-quarters of nursing and midwifery interns are considering emigrating as soon as they qualify this summer to avail of better pay and working conditions abroad.

Nursing representatives say the Irish health service have failed to offer appropriate incentives for young graduates to remain in Ireland.

Research into the State's staffing and recruitment of nursing graduates found that 70 per cent of interns have already been approached by overseas recruitment agencies this year, while only a third have been offered jobs by the Health Service Executive in Irish hospitals.

Just 16 per cent of students contacted by the HSE were offered permanent contracts while the rest were offered part-time positions.


All job offers from the UK’s National Health Service to Irish graduates so far this year have been for full-time positions. Nearly 80 per cent of all students surveyed said they would consider staying in Ireland if they were offered a permanent contract with the HSE.

The survey was carried out by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisations (INMO) among the State’s 1,500 nursing and midwifery interns completing their compulsory final year 36-week placement.

With so few permanent posts on offer from the HSE, nearly 60 per cent of interns said they were also considering moving into the private sector after qualifying.

More than 70 per cent of the students have not been offered a permanent post by their current employer, despite the HSE’s commitment last year to offer permanent jobs to all 2017 graduates.


INMO president Martina Harkin-Kelly says the HSE must urgently improve the incentives on offer to young graduates in order to solve the State’s crisis in recruiting and retaining nurses.

“[This survey] is highlighting the realities for our nursing graduates and dispelling the myth that our graduates want to leave this country after having spent time, energy and financial support with regards to getting themselves through a four-year degree. We’re looking down the barrel of a gun . . . no nurses means no hospitals.

“The answer is simple and straightforward; pay and incentivise.”

The INMO is calling on the HSE to offer real incentives, including better pay and employment conditions, for nurses and midwives to remain in the State that at the very least match offers from Irish private health services.

They have also recommended that the HSE provide contracts that guarantee post-qualification employment training to all graduates, offer career breaks within the contract which would allow for travel and begin recruitment at the start of the internship year.

The organisation’s director of industrial relations Phil Ní Shéaghdha recommends that the Irish public health service spend more time and money retaining Irish graduates rather than travelling overseas to recruit non-EU nurses. According to INMO research, a minimum of €11,000 is spent every time a nurse is recruited from a non-EU country.

“Our new graduates continue to be lured abroad and into private hospitals in Ireland by high-cost area supplements, access to ongoing education, signing on bonus, accommodation allowance, etc,” said Ms Ní Shéaghdha.

INMO new graduate officer Liam Conway says the international shortage in nurses and midwives means Irish graduates are a very valuable commodity. “We’re not giving job security to our nurses. We’re spending a fortune in this country to go overseas and recruit non-EU nationals. The solution is right in front of us. The HSE has to wake up and pull up its socks.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast