Australia top destination for Irish nurses working abroad

Simon Harris: Number of nursing jobs in Ireland at highest level since 2011

Australia is the favourite destination for Irish nurses seeking to work abroad, with the UK in second place, it has emerged.

The US, Canada and New Zealand make up the remainder of the top five favourite countries for emigrating Irish nurses, according to the Department of Health.

It revealed that more than 1,000 nurses sought proof-of-qualification certificates in 2016 to allow them seek employment abroad.

But Minister for Health Simon Harris said the numbers of full-time nursing staff “are at the highest levels since 2011 with numbers increasing since 2015, notwithstanding intense global competition for our nurses and midwives”.

He pointed out that the number of nursing and midwifery staff increased by 113 whole-time equivalents between the end of March and the end of April this year and by 714 since the end of December 2016.

Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) showed that a total of 1,059 nurses and midwives sought “certificates of current professional status” in 2016, documents which certify their qualifications and are sought by nurses when they intend to work overseas.

Mr Harris in a written parliamentary reply to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin highlighted the top five countries for such certificates – 421 nurses sought certificates for Australia; 381 for the UK; 91 for the United States; 45 for Canada and 20 for New Zealand.

Mr Harris said, however, that “nurses and midwives who receive this certificate do not in all cases actually travel abroad. Some of them may for a variety of reasons decide to stay in Ireland instead of travelling.”

Preventing emigration

Mr Martin questioned the Minister about the specific actions he and the HSE were taking to prevent nurse emigration in the short, medium and long term.

Mr Harris said agreement was reached to increase the number of permanent nursing jobs by 1,208 this year through a number of initiatives including “the conversion of agency-employed staff into HSE direct employees and offering all graduating nurses and midwives full-time contracts”.

Other measures include improved maternity leave cover as well as a career-break scheme and 130 additional undergraduate places in 2017.

The initiatives also include “offering nurses and midwives improved educational opportunities and career pathways which will support recruitment and retention in the medium and long term”.

The proposals were agreed at the Workplace Relations Commission between the Department of Health, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the HSE, the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation) and Siptu about nursing posts.

The Minister pointed out that the HSE will have to report to him on the implementation of these initiatives as part of the 2017 national service plan. A special report is expected this month on the recruitment of nurses provided in the workforce plan with follow-up reports every quarter.

Mr Harris said a high-level group with an independent chairperson had been established to oversee implementation of the agreement on the recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives.

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