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Over 700 student nurses and midwives and supporters gathered outside Dr.Steeven’s Hospital today (Thursday March 6th) at 2pm, for a demonstration against the situation facing them as they graduate. Students and supporters from across Ireland are expected at the demonstration. A number of speakers talked about their own personal experiences on the day and the challenges that they face.

The USI campaign, which has been initiated by students in third level education studying to become nurses and midwives in the future, seeks to highlight deficiencies in the pay and working conditions of student/intern nurses and midwives.

Support on social media has been overwhelming and shows that the public feels strongly about student/intern nurses and midwives getting treated fairly.

Students say that the initial training rate of €6.49* for intern student nurses/midwives is grossly unfair. Interning nurses and midwives work long shifts and often work just as hard as a full nurse. In many cases, student nurses and midwives are filling the gaps that exist due to what USI believes are staff shortages and overworked busy wards. Students call for the state to pay a fair wage for the work that is carried out during this “Training” phase.

Graduate nurses and midwives starting salary is currently €23,129 (85% of the staff starting pay for the first year and 90% in the second year). We believe that this salary is too low for nurses and midwives after four years of training. Coupled with long hours and an understaffing crisis, many graduates are opting to leave. When benchmarked against other countries, we see that graduate nurses and midwives start on much higher salaries and have much better supports and further training opportunities available.

USI is requesting that Minister James Reilly brings about an increase in pay for the graduate nurse scheme and a conversation to ensue about the increase in the student intern pay.

USI President Joe O’Connor said:

“Anyone living and working in Ireland is entitled to a living wage; in particular the ones that care for the public. The majority of 2013 graduate nurses and midwives have left Ireland to work abroad. This unfair treatment cannot continue. If it does, we will be left with a problem of epidemic proportions: no nurses or midwives left to work in our hospital wards.

The shortage of staff is already apparent on many wards and the added responsibility left on the shoulders of intern nurses and midwives as they try and learn the ropes. James Reilly needs to understand that when he said “emigrate or work in a fast food service if unhappy”, many graduates took him at his word – and now the situation needs to be rectified”.

NUI Galway President (and Graduate Nurse) Sean Kearns said:

“I always wanted to work in a caring profession and nursing seemed like the best option. When you are immersed in it, you learn that it is a tough job and not always rewarding, sometimes you find yourself in difficult situations.

Less than minimum wage to start off as an intern in this tough role is not good enough. Even worse is the fact the government are expecting graduates to start off significantly below the national minimum wage. It could be 6 years before nurses reach the previous starting salary of €25,000.

The incentive to stay has disappeared, only three general nurses out of 65 that graduated from my class have accepted contracts in Ireland. The rest have left to work leaving behind their families and often relationships. Some have decided to get a different job altogether after four years of studying. The message to the government is: talk to us and fix this problem before it gets even worse.”


First one-third of training course €6.49 per hour (75% of national minimum wage rate)
Second one-third of training course €6.92 per hour (80% of national minimum wage rate)
Final one third of the training course €7.79 per hour (90% of national minimum wage rate)

For more information contact USI Communications and Research Executive Grainne O’Reilly on 087-6776636 or 01-9052100.

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