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The Challenging Career Path to Nursing

    nursing course options and points in Ireland

    The path to a career in nursing can be a difficult one one to navigate. A career in nursing that was once secure with employment guaranteed is now unstable – with often few prospects in terms of job openings in Ireland. The CAO points required for nursing is a stark reflection on the state of this discipline. In 2022 over 4,363 students put a nursing or midwifery course as their first choice on their CAO with only 1,700 places available fueling competition for these places.

    Many students view this as ironic – given that a nursing career is both demanding and stressful, yet not extremely well rewarded financially; yet the rise in points to get a place on a nursing programme will now draw on the top 30% of Leaving Cert performers. General Nursing courses are always the most popular options but the increased competition saw points for almost all nursing programmes rising. The course with the highest points is Children’s and General Nursing in University College Cork, which has a limited number of places and has risen to 520 points.

    Nursing is now almost as competitive as Primary Teaching, which was traditionally one of the most closely fought for courses in the CAO system. As with teaching, even with restrictions in recruitment and related moratoriums, the perceived security offered by the traditional public service sector seems to be one of the defining criteria in CAO choices. Aside from the security factor (which is currently questionable).

    With retirements and on-going emigration of newly qualified nurses, all in search of better pay and conditions; there is cause for concern in the nurses union as to who will fill these places. The Irish nurses and Midwives organisation (INMO) has issued many warnings about nursing shortages.

    The problem is seen not only in Ireland. There is a shortage of nurses across the world, including in countries that provide nurses for international recruitment. According to the latest report from the International Council of Nurses, this has created a global health emergency. The report, Recover to Rebuild: Investing in the Nursing Workforce for Health System Effectiveness, lays out the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on nurses around the world. It advised that investment in a well-supported global nursing workforce was needed if health systems around the world were to recover and be rebuilt effectively.

    The WHO published similar findings in an earlier report (“State of the World’s Nursing”), which was published to mark World Health Day. According to that report;
    • there is a global shortage of 5.9m nurses,
    • an aging nursing workforce “threatens the stability” of nursing, particularly in Europe,
    • high-income countries like Ireland have an “excessive reliance” on international nursing mobility.
    The report looked at data on the world’s 27.9m nurses, from 191 countries. Globally, nurses make up 59% of the healthcare workforce, compared to 32% in Ireland’s public health service. As in Ireland, over 90% of nurses globally are women.
    To meet current and future health needs the report recommends:
    • an 8% increase in the number of nursing graduates each year to 2030
    • an expansion of advanced nurse practice and nurse-led units
    • more nursing positions funded globally
    • fair remuneration and strong retention measures

    What is unfortunate for those wishing to enter the career – many who would make excellent nurses; they will not get the opportunity to provide such an important nursing service, due to them being unable to meet the drastically high points mark.

    As we all know; a good nurse is more than a combination of high points. They have to be empathetic, responsive and practical in nature and being. These essential interpersonal and intrapersonal qualities won’t always be accompanied by 500 points – leaving a lot of potentially excellent nurses out of the hospital wards forever.