The Irish Nursing and Midwives Organisation (INMO) have announced that final year nursing interns will not receive a pay cut this September.
In a statement made on Twitter on July 9th, INMO said: “…the Department of Health and HSE have agreed to continue to pay interns at the current HCA rate until the end of their internship.”
According to a statement made on the Student Information page of their website in March, INMO arranged with the Department of Health and the HSE for student nurses on placements or internships to be paid for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic. These students would be offered temporary contracts as healthcare assistants (HCA), and would be paid in line with the HCA pay scale (€28,493 or €14 per hour).
According to INMO, final year students on internships would ordinarily receive a salary of €14,761. After graduating, and before their registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI), newly qualified nurses receive €25,666. As a result, final year students who are currently being paid at the HCA rate while on internship would receive a lower rate of pay upon graduation.
Following negotiations between the INMO and the Department of Health, fourth year interns will now continue to be paid according to the HCA rate until they are fully registered with the NMBI, when they should move up to the first point of the staff nurse pay scale (€30,009). Originally, the arrangement was due to end on July 14th, with interns returning to their usual lower rate of pay.
Michael Pidgeon, the INMO’s Head of Communications, spoke to The College Tribune about the issue on behalf of the organisation. On negotiating fair payment for students during the pandemic, he said: “As we were dealing with an emergency, arrangements in the beginning were rushed. Students were on placements, but in practice they were working, so we needed to ensure the State was paying them appropriately. As they were on HCA contracts, we needed to ensure they were being paid the same as a HCA.”
Pidgeon also discussed how the problem of the pay decrease arose. “There was a question of when the arrangement for interns should expire. Once they’ve completed their qualification, there’s better pay for a qualified nurse. However, there was an anomaly in the system, where newly qualified nurses this year would experience a decrease in their pay during the six to eight weeks it takes to process their registration after graduating. An intern before Covid-19 would receive around €14,000, and that’s now doubled to €28,000. That would have decreased to €25,000 before they were fully registered.”
He noted that there is a lot more work to do for the organisation, but student nurses will have one less worry as they graduate into the pandemic. “It wouldn’t be right for students to experience a decrease in pay when they’re qualified – you’ve graduated, congratulations, you’ve earned a pay cut! So, it was an issue, definitely, but it was resolved. There’s a lot more to figure out, but at least there’s more certainty now for student nurses.”
Isobel Dunne, Reporter