A 21-year-old student nurse says as the Government discusses whether to allocate people in her role a paltry €100 a week allowance she is left with the reality of hoping she can afford to top up her Leapcard in order to get the bus to work.
Tessa Bock says that student nurses have been recognised as frontline workers since the start of this pandemic back in March 2020.
“We had to quit jobs, sacrifice our health and our families health and dive right into the middle of it all.”
Ms Bock says they began their nurses courses knowing that there was a risk of bringing an infection home from the hospital.
She said she was fully cognisant that her work would be physically and mentally draining and that she would have to balance it with assignments and exams.
That’s roughly €2.80 an hour… the question is… will this really even happen?
“We knew that it was for education purposes and this was a part of the course. We didn’t know that we would have to do all of this during a global pandemic. Where our physical and mental health have been tested and where we’re near the verge of breaking with not one ounce of support from the government.”
Ms Bock says in March of last year the government gave student nurses an opportunity to work as healthcare assistants and to be paid accordingly as the Covid cases were rising.
“Before Christmas while many student nurses and midwives were on placement the government parties voted for us not to get paid as the cases of Covid-19 were ‘under control’. Now we’re here and Ireland has been recognised as the country with the highest Covid rate in the world.”
Tessa says she laughs in disbelief and anger over the fact that Government are now discussing a €100 a week allowance for people like her.
“That’s roughly €2.80 an hour… the question is… will this really even happen?”
‘Slap in the face’
Tessa loves nursing and is very grateful to have the ability to train in an excellent hospital. But she stresses that student nurses have a typical day which needs to be compensated with far more than the “slap in the face” of €2.80 an hour.
She admits that anxiety makes her wake at various intervals during the night.
“I wake every hour overthinking with panic about what the day before brought and with the nerves of what the day ahead is going to bring. I walk to the bus just to realise my Leapcard isn’t topped up because I had to make the decision yesterday if I should eat or not with the few coins I had left in my purse.
“I arrive to the hospital already exhausted but perk myself up after chatting to all the other student nurses. I go off to my ward where I’m told we’re short-staffed because some nurses are out due to Covid. I’m not with my preceptor, I haven’t worked with the other nurses before, I’m by myself. I receive the handover, two new patients… both Covid positive.”
Tessa says she has experienced difficult patients over the course of the pandemic.
One patient slapped her and tried to rip off her mask. She relaxed the patient and went to find one of the other nurses.
However, through no fault of her colleagues they were busy and Tessa had to handle the situation on her own.
Tessa stresses that she loves being of assistance to patients.
“I check on the patients throughout the day and tend to their needs. I help feed the patients who are too weak to feed themselves. I brush the hair and paint the nails of patients whose self-esteem has sunk so low they can’t get out of bed. I read the newspaper and sing songs with patients who have no company and lost their smile.
“I hold the hands of patients who are so terribly ill that they can’t speak to their family… they rely on me to be there for them. I wipe the tears of patients who don’t know when or if they’ll ever leave the hospital.
“I am there, 12 hours of the day. I am there, when they need me the most. I am there, when they are at the most vulnerable. Me. And I’m so beyond grateful that it’s me that can be there for them.
“I then leave. With the memory of the day forever with me. With the patients I’ve met forever in my heart.”
Tessa says that she leaves work to get the bus sometimes forgetting that she hasn’t topped up her Leapcard because she doesn’t have the money to do so.
“But the lady behind me sees the exhaustion in my eyes that she pays for my fare. I don’t get home till 10 that night. I shower but I don’t hug my dad goodnight, I don’t have energy to have a quick bite, I don’t sleep till 12. And then the day starts all over again.
“That is a typical day. Majority of the days are not ‘typical’ on the wards. Student nurses are asked to go over and beyond their scope of practice. We are hard working students. We don’t deserve this injustice
“Stephen Donnelly knows how dangerous being on the frontline now is, and he can’t admit that he needs the help of the student nurses because they would mean he would have to pay us fairly.”