Student nurses and midwives are being exploited during COVID, the INMO has warned.
Students on placements in hospitals across Ireland are facing additional COVID risks and are effectively being asked to work as staff for no pay.
Many have also faced income loss, as they are no longer able to work part time as care assistants while studying, due to the infection risk of working in a care home while also on placement in a hospital.
Before their final year internship, most student nurses and midwives get either nothing or an allowance of just €50.79 per week.
A HSE scheme to pay students on healthcare assistant salaries was used at the start of the pandemic in March, but it is no longer operating.
The INMO met with officials from the Department of Health yesterday, Friday, but there was no progress on the issue.
The INMO is calling for the payment provided in March to be re-introduced immediately and for student allowances to be increased substantially.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
“Our students are being taken for granted. They are facing huge workloads and risking COVID infection. And while they are doing indispensable work, they are getting no financial recognition for their efforts.
“They do not have the protections provided to employees. While most third-level students are advised to stay off campus and study online, nursing and midwifery students have to attend very dangerous workplaces to fulfil their learning objectives.
“Extra work, serious risk, and other sources of income being cut: student nurses and midwives are getting a raw deal. It is beyond time to respect their contribution and pay them. The message is simple: stop exploiting student nurses and midwives.”
A clinical placement coordinator for students, who asked not to be named, said:
“It’s crazy what we’re asking of students. They’re expected to be students, care staff and nurses all rolled into one. Nursing placements are always tough, but COVID has meant they’re under incredible pressure.
“They’re being supervised by a dwindling number of staff who are all under massive pressure too. All of it combines to undercut their learning experience.
“So many workplaces would be lost without students. We’re relying on them to not only learn, but to put in massive work. Not paying them is cheating them, in my view.”