THE number of places available for students to study nursing in Ireland should be increased, according to Councillor Gabriel Keating.
At a recent meeting of Clare County Council, he said, “An increase in points is being driven by the shortage of undergraduate places in our universities and institutes of technology.
“The number of placements in general nursing programmes reduced from 1,870 places in 2009 to 1,500 places in 2015, due to the HSE decision that year to reduce the number of places as a cost-saving measure, given that as part of their education trainee nurses receive a payment when there are on placement in hospitals.”
He said that nursing courses are becoming increasingly difficult to access.
“For example, midwifery and nursing courses in UCC were both 445 points, while general nursing at UCD, IT Tralee and Trinity were all 425 points.
“It is clear at this stage that the only way forward is to allow the 13 nursing schools to expand the number of places on offer to CAO applicants.”
He said that making nursing courses more accessible would have benefits from a number of different points of view.
“For the past number of years, up to 500 nursing students have accepted places in Northern Ireland and UK nursing schools.
“Those students were able to receive financial support for their study and with offers of employment and career advancement in the UK, it was an attractive option for Irish students.
“However, from the 2017 academic year onwards, all such NHS funding will cease and all nursing students will have to source student loans to fund their studies.
“This move will put further pressure on Irish nursing schools, as it will close off the option for many Irish PLC pre-nursing graduates, given the shortage of places here.
“If we increase the number of places in our nursing schools, we will address the demand and the resultant sharp rise in CAO points.
“In addition, now that our hospitals are recruiting again, it would also help to retain these graduating nurses here.”