World of Irish Nursing & Midwifery May 2019


This year marks 100 years of the INMO’s good service to the professions of nursing and midwifery , writes Dave Hughes

100 years of progress

first programme, run by the then Irish Nurses Union, was held in the old Richmond Hos- pital, which the INMO now owns and from which the Pro- fessional Development Centre provides a full range of post registration education. Patient advocacy has always been seen as a key function of the nurse and midwife. The INMO is a leading voice for patient advocacy in this country and daily, for almost two decades, has highlighted the scourge of long waits for patients in emergency depart- ments for access to a hospital bed. Highlighting the problems of the health service and the difficulty for patients including mothers and their children has not always been popular, but the Organisation and its mem- bers have never flinched from making the case for the most vulnerable in our society. In 2018 the INMO formed a partnership with the Royal College of Midwifery (RCM), strengthening the links between midwives in Northern Ireland and the Republic and deliver- ing access for INMO midwives to the educational, library and eLearning resources of the RCM. When the original 20 nurses gathered in 1919, the world was in turmoil following the First World War. Ireland was increasingly revolutionary since the 1916 uprising. Nurses and midwives working in Eng- lish hospitals at the time were paid substantially higher than in the voluntary hospitals in Ireland. Many married nurses and midwives saw their hus- bands go to war and faced the economic necessity of getting a better salary for their labour. The spirit of trade unionism and combining to improve their lot has been demonstrated in national campaigns, but only

twice in its 100-year history has the Organisation had to resort to a full national strike of nurses and midwives. In 1980, when Charles Haughey was Minister for Health, nurses and midwives took part in what became known as The Big March, protesting at the low level of their incomes. The Minister for Health settled with the nurses, and the media promptly dubbed the profes- sions ‘Charlie’s Angels’. Wage pressures again in the 1990s saw a campaign running from 1994 which cul- minated in a national nursing and midwifery strike in 1999. The outcome of that strike her- alded the implementation of the report of the Commission on Nursing, which had been established to avoid an earlier threatened strike in 1996. The Commission’s report with 200 recommendations became the blueprint for nursing and mid- wifery into the 21st century. Nursing and midwifery were severely impacted by the eco- nomic recession which almost broke the country in 2008. It left in its wake austerity meas- ures which saw the number of nursing and midwifery posts reduced by 5,000. An embargo on recruitment up to the end of 2013 ensured that most graduating nurses and mid- wives emigrated for work and out of economic necessity. This resulted in 20,000 nurses, midwives and newly qualified graduates leaving the country. That decrease in numbers, combined with the growing demand for health services and the inability of the Irish public health service to recruit and retain nurses and midwives, brought the INMO to the second national strike in its 100-year history in 2019. The action involved three days

The INMO, this year, cel- ebrates a centenary as the premier organisation repre- senting nurses and midwives in the Republic of Ireland. Professional regulation and registration in Ireland were first legislated for midwives in 1918 and for nurses in 1919. In that same year a group of 20 nurses combined to sow the seeds for what has grown into the 40,000 strong Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation today. Originally a branch of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, it quickly grew and developed into the Irish Nurses Union. The first secretary of the union was Marie Mortished. Today the INMO is also led by a registered nurse – Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary. The Organisation has always represented both nurses and midwives but the advent of direct entry to the midwifery profession led to the chang- ing of the name to encompass mi dw i v e s , w i t h t h e I NO becoming the INMO in 2008. Prior to that midwives were nurses in the first instance and, following further study and practice, became midwives. The history of the Organ- isation demonstrates that the professions have only progressed when nurses and midwives combined to put pressure on governments to recognise their value to soci- ety. The INMO has developed far beyond the original objec- tives of simply dealing with conditions of employment for nurses and midwives. As far back as the 1930s it lobbied for post registration education. After three years of pressure on government it was granted permission to provide the first week-long post-registration educational course for nurses and midwives in 1938. That

over two weeks and a public rally which garnered massive support. Ultimately that pres- sure brought the government to the negotiating table. The Labour Court intervened and recommended a set of propos- als which the Organisation is optimistic will, if accepted by members, turn the tide in terms of the ability of the Irish public health service to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of nurses and midwives to provide safe care for the population. The INMO represents most nurses and midwives in the Irish public and private health sectors. It is the internationally recognised organisation for Irish nurses and midwives and holds the presidency of both the International Council of Nurses and the European Fed- eration of Nurses in 2019. The Organisation, by provid- ing a comprehensive education and professional development centre as well as workplace representation and legally qualified defence, aims to cater for the needs of nurses and midwives from their com- mencement as students for the rest of their days. Irish nurses and midwives are the backbone of the health service and the INMO provides a voice for them, not only in their own interests, but also in the interests of their patients. 2019 marks a century of good service to the professions. Dave Hughes is deputy general secretary of the INMO

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