Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today confirmed the government is examining the issue of paying student nurses on unpaid placement, as hundreds ready themselves for work in a health service battling the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking at the launch of a public information booklet on the coronavirus, Varadkar said that Minister for Health Simon Harris would shortly have proposals on the issue.
Currently, student nurses on placement do not get paid – except for fourth-year nurses, who undertake internships that pay them €10.47 per hour.
However, the government is to look at the issue of first to third-year supernumerary students being paid during the coronavirus pandemic.
The public health booklet on coronavirus being launched will be sent to every household in Ireland in the coming days.
Student nurses have expressed anger at the current lack of pay, given many remain on placement while having to give up part-time work in places such as care facilities due to fears of exposing others to the virus.
Fourth-year students must complete a certain number of hours to graduate and are entitled to 55 hours of sick leave. But many students have expressed concern that if they are required to self-isolate they will exceed their sick leave and be unable to graduate.
In an email statement to The University Times today, Michael Pidgeon, a communications officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said: “In terms of pay and employment, interns are employees – same as any other – and have the rights and protections that go along with that. The employers’ sick leave arrangements apply.”
“For COVID-19, the INMO and other unions negotiated “special leave with pay”, which means that if someone is instructed to self-isolate, they do so without it having any impact on their wider entitlement to sick leave”, Pigeon added. “This covers interns and all employees.”
“As it stands, the normal procedure of outstanding clinical hours needing to be completed to meet the mandatory requirement of registration with the NMBI still applies. As is the norm, these outstanding clinical hours to meet the mandatory requirement of registration will be paid.”
“The INMO is seeking maximum flexibility and leniency with repaying hours given the extraordinary circumstances, but have not yet received a formal response on this”, he said.