Press Release

Nursing and nurses grossly under-valued – Minister Martin

Nurses and nursing as a profession were grossly undervalued in the twentieth century, the Minister for Health, Micheál Martin, T.D., today (Monday 17th April) told the National Nursing Convention of SIPTU in Killarney.

“It’s our job to change that, change it radically and change it speedily, in the early years of the twenty first century,” the Minister told the delegates.

The Minister said that while nursing is often seen as a very positive but essentially unchanging aspect of life, the reality is that no profession has undergone such massive change, no profession has survived such traumatic challenge, as nursing has. The tendency, the Minister added, has always been to cut nurses down to size by complimenting them.

“It sounds positive,” he said. “But too often, the underlying intent has been a variation on the old comment that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world: compliment them, praise them to the skies. Don’t treat them as equals. Don’t listen to them. And if they start giving out about it, tell them it’s a vocation. It’s time we faced up to the fact that the history of nursing is a story of gifted healers fighting for professional recognition against waves of prejudice and postponement.”

The key task today, he said, was to decisively put the nursing profession in its right position in healthcare, so that the women and men who nurse the sick achieve the public and personal esteem they deserve.

“I want to make major progress in this area during my time as Minister for Health. That’s why I’m pushing for speedy implementation of the comprehensive framework developed by the Nursing Commission for addressing the real underlying problems in nursing and midwifery. Implementing the Commission’s fundamental structural reforms will transform the way nursing is regulated, educated and developed. It will open exciting new clinical career pathways and enhanced opportunities for professional development.”

As part of the settlement of the nurses’ strike involved, agreement was reached between the Department of Health and the Nursing Alliance on a priority Action Plan to implement core recommendations of the Commission on Nursing. The Government has put up £10 million this year to make sure this works and a monitoring committee is going to review progress every quarter. SIPTU is represented on the Monitoring Committee by Kay Collins, who was a member of the Commission on Nursing, and by Fiona Edwards. This partnership approach, proposed by the Commission itself, would, the Minister stated, be key to progressing the huge agenda recommended by the Commission.