HUNDREDS of student nurses who held a lunchtime protest in the rain outside the Mid Western Regional Hospital last week, have welcomed the government decision to review the rationale for the total abolition of clinical placement payments to student nurses.
The government had decided that the payment to student nurses during the period of their clinical placement should be reduced on a phased basis over the period 2012 to 2014 and should be abolished entirely from January 2015.
Having considered the matter following her appointment as Minister for Health and Children, the Tnaiste Mary Coughlan said there is a strong argument in favour of retaining some level of payment to student nurses and she intends, following the review, to bring a revised proposal to government.
"Unlike the practice in other countries, student nurses in Ireland have been treated as paid employees for part of their education programme while still having the same status as other university students.
On the other hand, staff nurses are currently replaced on a two to one ratio by student nurses on clinical placement and these student nurses undertake similar duties and rosters to staff nurses.
"I think there is a need to review the existing clinical placement and replacement ratio arrangements and I believe there may be a case in that context to reinstate some financial reward for student nurses during their clinical placements.
It appears the voices of the angry students were heard by the Tnaiste. Speaking to the Limerick Leader outside the Dooradoyle hospital, Barry Dillon from Caherdavin said the proposal was grossly unfair.
"Next year when we are on placement and covering nursing staff duties, we'll be losing money. We feel we are entitled to get our 80 per cent which was agreed when we undertook the course three years ago."
Student nurse, Margaret Power from Ballynanty was outraged by the proposed cuts. "I'm here today to protest because they want to cut our pay, when we go into fourth year, by 60 per cent.
"We are actually going to be replacing staff nurses. Our hours are going to be very long and we're going to be working nights and weekends, and it is just ridiculous. It is below minimum wage. It is just too much money to cut. It's not fair because we do really hard work, just as hard as a staff nurse and we would be classified as a staff nurse by then."