The University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) has launched a video campaign calling on the government to pay student nurses and midwives. On Wednesday the 17th of February, the video, which features two student nurses, Louise and Shane, went live as the start of the campaign to force the government to pay students for all of their hard work, not just during the pandemic.

Louise and Shane share their experience of working as a student nurse on placement in this video which also features eleven TD’s and Senators from opposition parties who support the call to Pay Student Nurses and Midwives.

Credit UCDSU and MRN Photography

In a statement released by the UCDSU, Shane, a third year nursing student explained what he has had to go through during his placement. “The guidelines for a third-year nurse are to look after two to four patients, under the close supervision of a staff nurse,” he said. “I was on a ward where I was responsible for eleven patients. That’s two or three times more than I was meant to have. It goes completely against my guidelines as a student nurse, but we are expected to do that. We can’t stand up for ourselves.”

Louise, who is also a third year nursing student, told of her frustration with how she has been treated on placement. “A term that is often used behind closed doors, is that we are extra hands. I hate being called extra hands because I am a student,” Louise said. “I’m not there to cover breaks or to make the day go smoother. I am there to learn, but some people don’t see it that way. Once again, it brings us back to the issue of understaffing in hospitals.

“I will never blame the hospitals for needing us but if they could just admit, and if the colleges could just admit that we are being used as extra help in the hospital to help understaffing – that would be a huge win for student nurses. The fact that we are not recognised as extra help is degrading.”

In the same statement, UCDSU President Conor Anderson reiterated why it is important that student nurses and midwives be paid. “There are a lot of arguments being made around this problem of paying student nurses and the bottom line is when people do work and if that work is either necessary or generates wealth, which both is the case for student nurses on placement, they have to be paid for it,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter that they are not fully qualified nurses. If they are doing the work that qualified nurses do, they should be paid for it, end of story.”

Ruairí Power, the UCDSU Welfare Officer, added in the statement that student nurses and midwives are in fact paying to fill in the gaps left by deficiencies in the current health system rather than being paid. “Student nurses and midwives are doing real work and they should be compensated for it,” Power said. “In fact, they are paying huge sums of money for the privilege of propping up deficiencies in our public health service due to years of government inaction and failure to recruit and retain essential staff.”

The video is a response to the Dail’s decision in December to continue to not pay student nurses and midwives for their work. It is the latest in a number of calls from different groups to pay the student healthcare workers for their efforts, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephen Kisbey-Green – Co-Editor