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"In Ireland, you're like a zombie by the end of the week": Irish nurse on why she's working in Australia

A registered nurse in their first year would earn €200 less per week in Ireland than a nurse in the same position in Australia.

Stock image.
Stock image.

IRISH NURSES ARE travelling abroad for better pay, more opportunities, shorter working weeks – and to avoid the difficult working conditions in Ireland caused by a lack of beds and staff, and a growing population.

One nurse working in Australia has given her account of how exactly working conditions in Australia “are fantastic” compared to those in Ireland.

The nurse says that she originally travelled to Australia “for adventure and a new experience” but always intended to return to Ireland after a few years.

“I finally returned to Dublin and worked in the Rotunda in Dublin.

I was paid as a first year registered nurse and received no recognition of my years of service in Australia and overseas. I was on a temporary contract and was unable to get a bank loan or a lease for a house.

When she returned to Australia, she says her salary doubled and the conditions were much better. For example, the hospital provided her with an ‘accrued day off’, which entitles nurses who work a full four 35-hour weeks an extra paid day off a month.

“In Ireland, you would work seven 12-hour night shifts in a row and get a week off. You were like a zombie at the end of that working week and it would take you two to three days to recover.

“In Australia, we work four ten-hour nights as a rule, which is much more conducive to health and wellbeing.”

A registered nurse in their first year would earn €528.52 per week in Ireland, while a registered nurse in their first year in Australia would earn $1,142.20 – equal to €796.86 per week.

What’s driving nurses abroad

shutterstock_325997342 Source: Shutterstock/Chaikom

Margaret Cox, director of ICE Jobs which links nurses with recruiters in Australia, told TheJournal.ie that the reason nurses travel abroad is multifaceted.

“There are better opportunities, and a greater respect for the nurse’s role,” says Cox. “The work and pay conditions are better, and the lifestyle plays an important part too – they have bright evenings and be able to go for a walk after work.”

This contrasts with accounts from earlier this month, where nurses had begun to share their experiences of the healthcare system in a Facebook group in a mass expression of frustration at the system.

One nurse said:

We are so unbelievably undervalued and we find it difficult to strike in numbers because people may actually die if we do strike as we are so short of staff. Who the hell is going to look after the dying patients if we strike?

Another frontline worker said:

Midwifery was my passion and now I begin to despite it more and more everyday – and I’m only 22 with one year qualified experience. How will I feel in years from now? I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. Just today I was assaulted by a lady because the doctor could not come to see her because the hospital is so busy.

Budget 2017 promises that thousands of nurses who graduated between 2011 and 2015 will have their incremental credit (around €1,000 a year) for their 36-week student placement restored - pay that was cut because of economic circumstances.

But Cox and others in say that there needs to be a larger overhaul of the system than just pay restoration and increases, with an increase in staff and the provision of more hospital beds badly needed as well.

“There’s huge initiative and drive in Irish nurses, but sometimes you just get tired of battling.”

The Irish nurse in Australia says that working conditions in Australia “are fantastic”.

“There is opportunity for professional development, reasonable patient ratios and industrial awareness and reaction when this does not occur. The pay structure is also reasonable.”

“The Irish government needs to act now before it loses more nurses to the international workforce market.”

Read: Thousands of nurses to see pay rise of at least €1,000 next year

Read: ‘We aren’t nurses anymore: we are slaves’ – Irish nurses explain why they’ve had enough

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