Ulster bid to help with nurse shortfall in Eire

May 11, 2001

The Republic of Ireland has called in the University of Ulster to train nurse trainers as it faces the first shortage of nurses in its history.

The university could find increasing numbers of Irish nurse trainers undertaking masters degrees at the university if they vote to transfer nurse education from hospital colleges, a move already made in the United Kingdom.

The result of a ballot on the transfer is expected on May 16.

Hugh McKenna, head of the School of Health Science at UU, said: "At the moment, the vote appears to be extremely close. Many nurse tutors find the prospect of moving to a university, where they will have to do more research and could see themselves move down the career and salary ladder, unattractive. If they do move, many will want to do masters degrees to improve their academic qualifications."

The republic plans to increase student nurse numbers from 750 to 1,500. The UU is working with the Irish Nursing Organisation to provide fast-track postgraduate diplomas, which will qualify nurses with at least three years' experience on the wards, to teach.

Professor McKenna said: "The republic has traditionally supplied the world with nurses, as women from large families were pushed into this career.

"Now, people are having smaller families and women have more career choices. The republic is so short of nurses that it is unable to open new wards. The universities in the republic cannot provide the increased numbers of nurse trainers on their own."

Annette Kennedy, director of professional development at the Irish Nursing Organisation, said: "At the end of the 1990s there was a major commission into all aspects of nursing in Ireland and one of its 200 recommendations was that the pre-registration nursing qualification move from diploma level to a four-year degree. Another recommendation was to move nurse education to universities."

Professor McKenna added: "This is the sort of all-Ireland initiative that is very much flavour of the month at the moment and universities are keen to publicise the work they do across the border."

More than 20 nurse trainers will finish their postgraduate diploma this summer with UU, of which 18 could go on to do a masters if nurse education moves to universities.

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