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nurses needed

Irish hospitals spending hundreds of thousands on overseas recruitment while US nurses turned away

If the Health Minister plans to keep his commitment on hiring new nurses, he has until the end of the year to hire 1,196 nurses.

IRISH HOSPITALS ARE spending hundreds of thousands on overseas recruitment drives – while hundreds of qualified nurses from the US who have applied to work here have been denied access.

According to HSE annual report figures for 2016, nursing staffing levels have fallen by more than 3,000 since 2007.

The Minister for Health has committed to increasing the nursing workforce by adding 1,209 additional permanent nursing posts this year.

However when the Department of Health was asked how many of these positions have been filled, we were directed to the HSE press office.

The HSE spokesperson couldn’t say how many of the 1,209 positions are now filled since the commitment was made in May – but we were told: “As at the end of August 2017, there are an extra 13 nurses in the system.”

That’s just over 1% of what was promised and leaves 1,196 nursing positions to be filled.

The HSE also pointed out that ”the most positive trend for nurse staffing occurs towards the end of the year”, adding that there was an increase of 636 nurses from September 2016 to September 2017.

However, if Minister Harris plans to keep his commitment, an extra 1,196 nurses would need to be hired in the space of four months – that’s almost double the amount hired in the 12 months from September 2016 to September 2017.

Despite this dearth of staff, has heard from a number of nurses trained in the US who described being refused registration to work here.

After being rejected, they were told they didn’t have the correct amount of clinical and theory hours from their studies – even though they have been working as professionals in US hospitals for years.

Meanwhile, Irish hospitals are spending hundreds of thousands on overseas recruitment drives with large fees being paid to agencies.

When asked the HSE how much it is spending on overseas recruitment drives, a spokesperson said: “HSE National HR Division has spent €10,000 on overseas recruitment drives and promotion for positions in the Irish Healthcare System. Staff from National HR have travelled to London, Wales, Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

This website then sent Freedom of Information Requests to individual hospital groups asking how much they spent on similar initiatives.

Of the 26 hospitals that disclosed the figures, we can reveal that almost €700,000 has been spent since June of last year.

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The HSE confirmed that it attended a recruitment event in London in April, in Cardiff in May and in Edinburgh and Glasgow in June.

Yet despite receiving 101 applications from the US last year, just nine nurses were registered. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) – which is responsible for evaluating overseas applications from nurses and midwives who want to work in Ireland – also noted that some of the registrations may be from applications from the previous year.

Of the 247 US applications received since 2013, less than 10% (24) were registered and 77 were refused.

There are currently 65,000 nurses in Ireland: 51,000 are Irish, 4,600 are from India and 4,265 are from the Philippines, but only 270 are from the United States.

The NMBI said “the protection of the public is at the heart of the registration system” and that some American applicants do not meet its standards due to the nursing programmes they undertook and how they compare with Irish standards.

However, Rebecca Love, a professor at the School of Nursing Northeastern University and founder of American nurse recruitment website, rebuts that claim.

She says that after hours researching, calculating and reviewing the transcripts and documents of American nurses, she has found that nurses with a BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) from the US do have the correct theory and clinical hours needed.

I believe that there has been a severe misunderstanding and miscalculation of American credit hours that may have wrongly denied American nurses access to a nursing license in Ireland.

More than a dozen nurses who reached out to said the difference in their clinical and theory hours from their degrees was the reason they were refused or told to take an adaptation course.

Most of these nurses had worked for years in hospitals in the US, one woman we spoke to had worked for more than 30 years, while another was a nursing school professor and a dean for almost 20 years – but they were still denied over these college hours.

The nurses also said that they were never told clinical and theory hours were a concern until after they applied – at a cost of €425 – even though it is, by now, a well-known issue. One Irish nurse who was trained in the US told this website:

Nurses from the US are sending money to an organisation that has no intention of registering them, and this has been going on for years.

She spent €425 ($479) for her first application. She was then told time had run out after a year and then paid another €355 ($400) and a further €133 ($150) to appeal.

Another nurse said, “You have highly trained and experienced American nurses sitting around this country unable to work, while you have Irish nurses drowning looking for more staff.”

Changing assessment 

Since highlighted this anomaly, the NMBI says that it is changing its assessment process and that post graduate experience will now go towards crediting nurses for lack of clinical and theory hours.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for the NMBI said:

To support the significant recent increase in overseas applicants with extensive post-qualifying experience, but clinical and theory hours that fall short of what is required for registration, the NMBI board has changed its standard operating procedure for assessment to now include evaluating an applicant’s post-qualifying experience in full.

“To be relevant, these activities must have included full responsibility for the planning, organisation and administration of nursing care delivered to the patient.

“All such post-qualifying experience must be verified by the employer and be accompanied by a certificate stating that the holders have been effectively and lawfully engaged in the activities in question for at least three consecutive years during the five years preceding the award of the certificate.”

When asked how many nurses trained in the US have been denied access to work here are being reassessed, the NMBI spokesperson said, “It’s not possible to put a figure on re-assessments as it very much depends on each case, how short they are on clinical and theory hours, relevant post-qualifying experience, and other specific issues – it’s all done on a case-by-case basis.”

However, with only 13 extra nurses in the system as of August – since the commitment of 1,209 was made in May – the changing of the assessment process for one group of nurses is a very small step in what is a huge problem for Irish hospitals and ultimately Irish patients.

Read: ‘Ireland’s nursing crisis could be eclipsed if US nurses weren’t being denied access to work here’>

Read: Nurses trained in the US denied access to work in Irish hospitals – despite years of experience>

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