Student nurses to receive 12.5% pay rise for internships

Donnelly to table new payment initiative for fourth-year students on foot of review

Student nurses in their fourth-year internship are to receive an increase in payments of about 12.5 per cent under proposals to be put forward by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

The aim is to bring the payment for fourth-year students during their 36-week internship in hospitals to about 80 per cent of the starting salary of a qualified nurse.

The Minister is also planning to extend the timescale for the payment of a separate, existing €100 weekly placement grant for student nurses.

Government parties have been briefed in recent days on Mr Donnelly’s new student nurse initiatives which together are expected to cost about €6 million a year.

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The new proposals follow on from a review of student nurse payments and allowances commissioned by the Minister late last year.

Student nurses are scheduled to protest on Tuesday outside the Dáil at the delay in publishing what is known as the McHugh report.

At present, student nurses receive the equivalent of an annual salary of €21,749-€22,249 for their 36-week placements in hospitals during their fourth year.

This is expected to rise by about 12.5 per cent under the Minister’s proposals which arise on foot of the McHugh report.

Student nurses are the only healthcare students paid for their period in hospitals prior to qualification.

Separately, the time period for the payment of a €100 per week pandemic placement grant which was introduced by the Minister last May following an earlier review of allowances, is to be extended.

It is understood that this payment for about 4,500 student nurses was originally intended to run for the the 2020/21 academic year. It is now envisaged that it will also be extended to cover the 2021/22 academic year.

Inappropriate tasks

The issue of pay for student nurses and midwives moved centre stage politically late last year when the Opposition alleged that many were being used as unpaid staff, and were being assigned to inappropriate tasks.

The Dáil heard allegations that one such student had been assigned to lay out a baby who had died, although the HSE has said that senior management have not received complaints of inappropriate assignments.

The Government established two separate reviews of student nurse payments late last year – one to be implemented in the immediate term and one as a more medium-term arrangement.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation urged last year that student nurses be paid as healthcare assistants on the basis that they were being asked to carry out the duties of full-time employees and due to the dangers posed by Covid-19.

Under an initiative introduced by the then minister for health Simon Harris during the first wave of Covid-19, about 1,350 first- to third-year student nurses took up the offer to become paid healthcare assistants – a move which cost about €41 million.

Nurses as well as other healthcare staff have sought “recognition” from the Government for their efforts during the pandemic. The Labour Court has urged Government and healthcare unions to engage in talks on the issue directly.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent