Why is the HSE's nurse recruitment scheme not working?

The effort has attracted just 88 nurses to Ireland, half of whom have left again

Why is the HSE's nurse recruitment scheme not working?

An advertisment for nurses on the side of the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

A recruitment scheme by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to bring nurses from overseas to Ireland has so far cost more than €250,000.

But it's failed to bring in even 20% of its target number of nurses since launching last year - and the INMO claim half the nurses the HSE has managed to recruit have already left Ireland again.

There are a number of strands to why it is failing - pay, conditions and morale.

Pay

What the HSE is offering nurses is not much lower than what they would get elsewhere.

But many hospitals in the UK, Australia and Canada are offering better relocation money and are giving incentives like permanent Visas, fewer working hours and cheaper accommodation.

A nurse moving to London would start on about €28,300 a year, plus a 20% London living allowance.

This compares to the first HSE pay scale of €27,211 for nurses and midwives.

Keeping student nurses

The HSE does not make offers to student nurses until late in their final year.

Sometimes these are three month initial contracts offered with the understanding of more work to follow.

Other hospitals, particularly from the UK, are actively recruiting Irish student nurses six or 12 months before they are approached by the HSE.

One Irish nurse working in King's College in London said she wants to come home, but no one from the HSE has offered any incentive.

"I've never seen anything put in place to say 'you're an overseas Irish nurse, here's what we'd offer you to come home'," said Aileen Mulvihil.

That is despite the HSE spending €200,000 since July 2015 on two recruitment firms hired to go out and bring nurses back to Ireland.

Possibly the biggest barrier of all though is the state of our hospitals.

Conditions

Conditions for nurses in many Irish nurses are nothing short of deplorable.

They are overworked, understaffed and dealing with sick, vulnerable and scared people.

The trolleys scandal is a huge stress on the lives of many nurses - and not an acceptable situation to ask patients, nurses or doctors to deal with.

This afternoon maternity ward nurses at Mayo University Hospital are protesting over the conditions they face.

The INMO is saying the situation there is as bad as Portlaoise was a number of years ago, when five babies died at the maternity unit.

Is it any wonder then that nurses abroad do not want to return to that kind of environment?

Many newly-qualified nurses are choosing to leave the country or the profession entirely.

Aoife Kiernan is a newly-qualified general nurse and has decided not to pursue nursing but to retrain in business.

"On my very first day one of the first nurses I met told me to stop and get out. That's a very tough pill to swallow.

"I can't even count on one hand, or even two, the amount of people who have already left.

"I know a massive amount of people who are planning to leave in January."

Respect

Possibly the most telling comments from nurses are about the image of the HSE as a whole.

Young nurses say they are disrespected, badly treated, but highly educated.

And if they cannot support a life here in a decent environment, they will continue to look elsewhere.

If the HSE is serious about bringing nurses back to Ireland, it is going to take a lot more than a €1,500 payment and the hope that it will get better.