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Student nurses rostered for work should be paid by employers – Taoiseach

Student nurses who are rostered to work should be paid by their employers, the Taoiseach has said. But he warned such a situation would cause problems for the nursing degree programme, potentially bringing it back to the apprenticeship model, and reducing the quality of nurse education.

Micheal Martin said first-year students on placement programmes should not be working, and those who are being “exploited” by employers. Speaking during Leader’s Questions today, he said that a nurse on a clinical placement student is a full-time student and also that the quality of the clinical placement as well as the learning process is significantly reduced.

The row over pay for student nurses and midwives dominated Leader’s Questions for the fifth successive Dáil sitting.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the student nurses she had spoken to were angry at a suggestion from the Taoiseach that they had been exploited by colleagues.

 She said that the nurses in hospitals are facing overcrowding, a lack of staff and stressful conditions.

The result of decades of bad Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael policy. She said that according to the nurses the only abuse and exploitation there is the Government’s persistent refusal to pay them.

McDonald noted that the government had found money for a recent pension increase for former Taoisigh, but when it comes to student nurses its only sympathy or applause and neglect.

She added that they are broke and really struggling to get by.

The Taoiseach denied suggesting student nurses were being exploited by their colleagues. He said any employer that would take them from their full-time student status and roster them in for a 13-hour shift “is responsible for that exploitation”.

He accused the Sinn Féin leader of ignoring the fact that pay for student nurses would require reverting to the apprenticeship system and added that they cannot have both system.

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