Student nurses to receive government subsistence payment three months late

Student nurses on placement have said they “have to fight for everything we are entitled to”

Student nurses currently on placement in Tallaght Hospital will reportedly receive their first government subsistence payment this month, three months after it was originally due.

Announced in December 2022, the annual €500 subsistence payments were introduced to target the extra costs of meals during clinical placements.

The payment would also be backdated to September 2022, with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly confirming in July students would receive the payments in “two equal parts, in November 2023 and February 2024”.

However, students told Trinity News in December they had not yet received the first payment due in November.

Following delays, the School of Nursing promised the payment would be delivered during this week, with additional payments due to be delivered at a later date.

In correspondence seen by Trinity News, however, the Student Allocations Liaison Officer (SALO) of Tallaght University Hospital informed students that the payroll is currently processing the payments, which will be completed before the end of February.

The SALO said students will receive the payments “as soon as possible”, with the projected schedule resulting in a near three-month delay for nurses on placement in Tallaght.

Student nurses also reported inconsistencies in the distribution of the subsistence allowance so far, with some students in St James’ Hospital reportedly receiving the payment already.

Junior Sophister Children’s and General Nursing representative Tara Ní Bhroin told Trinity News the delays have been “infuriating, frustrating, and draining” for students.

“It was some relief to know that we were being somewhat compensated for the long hours of placement we do, and that we had a definitive timeline as to when we should expect these payments,” she said.

Alongside a lack of information regarding when the payment would be made, Ní Bhroin outlined a lack of communication with the Nursing School and representatives in Tallaght.

“It constantly felt like we were speaking to the void as any communication we attempted to have with the school of Nursing and Tallaght Hospital was unacknowledged and not replied to,” she said.

“I sent many, many emails stating how unacceptable the delay in payments is, how stress inducing the situation is, and how disrespectful and unsupportive our supposed support systems have been. Again, I received barely any response.

In previous correspondence, the School of Nursing have reportedly expressed frustration and sympathy for students, although Ní Bhroin said student nurses feel left behind by their “advocates”.

“These people and groups are meant to be there as our advocates, as our support, as people we can go to when we need guidance and answers – and yet we have been left in the dark,” she said.

“We all know student nurses work long hours and that many of us cannot work part time jobs when on placement, leaving us in financially stressful situations. We need clarity and communication when it comes to payments.”

Head of the School of Nursing Dr Fintan Sheeran told Trinity News the School has “no role whatsoever in the processes related to these payments” and expressed concern about the delays.

“They are between the HSE and the students and are provided via the clinical site that students are linked with.” he said.

Dr. Sheerin said he has sought to find information about the payments on students’ behalf during the process and “provide whatever assistance I could to find a positive outcome”.

Regarding student welfare, Dr. Sheerin said: “As the Head of the School, I am concerned about the impact of delays on student learning and engagement and indeed on the hardship that this may be causing for some”

In relation to the lack of official communication, Dr. Sheerin stated that he was actively engaged in responding to students queries, alongside communication that was delivered from the Undergraduate director.

Speaking to Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union Off-Campus Officer Hannah McCauley said the delay in subsistence payment is “symptomatic of the disregard shown to student nurses who so often are required to form a supplementary staffing pool at reduced rates”.

“Student nurses and students of other healthcare disciplines are expected to work in subpar conditions for delayed, reduced or no pay,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health previously told Trinity News the HSE’s SALOs “are leading the implementation of the revised subsistence payments for eligible student nurses and midwives”.

“Payments are either currently being made to those eligible or the payments are being processed,” they said.

College declined to comment on the matter. The School of Nursing has been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting by Ellen Kenny.