Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999

Vol. 509 No. 2

Written Answers. - Nursing Staff.

Seán Power


102 Mr. Power asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has satisfied himself with the way in which student nurses are recruited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20031/99]

In previous years the recruitment and selection process for places on both the general and psychiatric nursing registration/diploma programmes was administered by the nursing applications centre. An Bord Altranais has assumed responsibility for the overall management of the nursing applications centre from this year onwards and has renamed it the nursing careers centre in order to give it a broader focus in relation to nursing as a career generally. This transfer of responsibility is in accordance with the strengthened role of An Bord Altranais in the area of pre-registration nursing education and training recommended by the commission on nursing.

As part of the preparations for this year's competitions, An Bord Altranais, with my approval, amended its own rules to revise the minimum educational requirements for entry to nursing training. Broadly speaking, the requirements have been brought into line with those of the third level institutions. The effect of this rule change is to expand the range of leaving certificate subjects that may be presented by an applicant for admission to the nursing diploma programmes. In particular, it removes the requirement for a foreign language in the case of the non-NUI third level institutions involved in the operation of the programmes. A decision was subsequently taken by the NUI to drop the requirement for a foreign language for entry to the programmes. These changes introduce greater flexibility in the entry criteria for nursing training, without reducing standards, and will increase the pool of school leavers and others who will be eligible for places on the nursing diploma programmes.

The changes outlined above, together with the national and local recruitment campaigns which I funded, have resulted in a highly successful outcome to this year's competitions for training places on the nursing diploma programmes. A total of 1,222 training places have been filled: 821 in general nursing, 245 in psychiatric nursing and 156 in mental handicap nursing. This is the largest number of direct entrants to nurse training for several years and proves that there continues to be considerable interest among young people and others in nursing as a career. I provided funding of almost £400,000 for the recruitment campaigns and I regard it as money well spent. I am especially pleased that the promotional campaigns have raised the profile of both psychiatric and mental handicap nursing. This year we succeeded in filling a record 245 training places in psychiatric nursing compared with only 92 places last year, and a record 156 places in mental handicap nursing compared with 117 in 1998. I also made available funding for some 100 extra training places in general and psychiatric nursing this year and these have been offered to applicants who successfully came through the competition.
The commission on nursing has recommended the establishment of a representative nursing education forum to prepare a strategy for moving pre-registration nursing from the present three year programme to a four year degree programme in time for the intake of nursing students in the year 2002. I have established this forum, which is chaired by Dr. Laraine Joyce, the deputy director of the office for health management. Its membership includes representatives of schools of nursing, third level institutions, health service providers, An Bord Altranais and relevant Departments. The forum held its first meeting on 10 February and is proceeding with its work.
One of the first tasks that the forum has been asked to undertake is an examination of the respective weightings that should be given to the academic achievement and general suitability of applicants for entry to student nursing programmes. At present, the application system for places on the nursing diploma programmes operates outside the Central Applications Office. It is intended that, in line with what has been recommended by the commission on nursing, the application process would be transferred to the CAO in advance of the introduction of a four year degree programme. I have received the forum's recommendation in relation to same which I have forwarded to An Bord Altranais for immediate action.