"I can't sit at home and let my skills die"


MOTHER-OF-SEVEN Margaret Sexton Fitzpatrick returned to college four years ago to study midwifery.

She relished the challenge of the new direct-entry degree programme in midwifery which had just been introduced to resolve the shortage of midwives in Irish hospitals. Some 140 places were allocated to students in the first year of the programme.

Leaving behind her young family, she drove for about an hour each morning from her home in Clonakilty in west Cork to study at University College Cork and Cork University Maternity Hospital, feeling sure at the end of it all she would have a good job and one she loved.

“I was blessed to get the course. Children or no children it would have been tough going back to college,” she said.

She left home every morning at 7am and studied in college in the evening before returning home.

The 43-year-old finished her studies last month, gaining an honours degree, but

along with her 14 classmates was told there will be no jobs for them due to the embargo on recruitment in the public sector, despite ongoing midwife shortages in maternity hospitals.

As one of the first batch of midwives to graduate from the direct-entry midwifery degree course, she said yesterday she was upset and disillusioned. She said that after four years of training and hard work – doing exams at the same time as two of her children were doing the Junior and Leaving Certificates – the only job prospects for her now, apart from agency work, were in the UK. She has an interview for a job in Surrey next month and is considering going to work there. “I can’t sit at home and let my skills die.”

She may be able to work in the UK for three long days every week and fly home to her family for the remainder, if she is successful at interview. Her children, aged 10 to 22 years, and husband Tim, a haulier, are supportive, but what she wants is “to work where I was trained. It’s a fantastic hospital.”

Meanwhile, Ann Marie King (22) from Ardee, Co Louth, who has just finished her training as a nurse at Dundalk Institute of Technology, begins work in Sussex on November 22nd.

She says nobody in her class of 50 has got a job in Ireland yet. She doesn’t want to emigrate but says she has no choice, leaving behind her boyfriend of three years. As the youngest in a family of six, her parents are worried too about her departure, she says.