A survey of nurses and midwives who are due to qualify this year has found that 78% are planning to work abroad.

However, the survey also found that 79% of respondents would consider staying in the Irish public health service for at least a year if offered guaranteed permanent contracts.

The survey, carried out by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, showed that 70% of student nurses had been approached by overseas recruitment companies, while only 30% were contacted by the Health Service Executive.

Of that 30%, 60% were considering moving to the private sector.

The INMO said the HSE is not incentivising nurses to stay in the Irish public healthcare sector.

The survey found that to entice nurses to stay the HSE needs to increase pay, improve staffing levels and working conditions, and providing access to post-graduate education.

The survey was put to 1,500 nursing and midwifery students who are on placements in Irish hospitals to find out where they planned to work when they qualify in September.

The HSE has said that while a cohort of undergraduate nurses will travel abroad, it is committed to offering permanent employment to all undergraduate nurses this year.

In a statement the organisation said this process has been communicated to all hospital groups and has commenced.

The HSE added that all final offers will be subject to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland later this year.

The INMO Director of Industrial Relations has said "the UK market has gone to extraordinary lengths to recruit our graduates because they're well trained".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the HSE trains enough nurses but it is "not at the races when it comes to retaining them post qualification".

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said during the recent recruitment and retention campaign, the INMO emphasised to the HSE that it needs to be "much sharper, much quicker" in terms of recruiting nurses because "we're not managing to hold onto them ourselves".

Since 2011, she said, the INMO estimates that over 9,000 student nurses and midwives have been trained but the HSE has managed to retain very few of them.

She said 1,500 nurses are trained each year.

In their final year, these students work for 36 weeks during that period, are paid just over the minimum wage and provide a full service to patients and are a "valuable asset" to staff.

However, she said when they qualify, UK recruitment firms are able to offer nurses permanency, a post graduate education, a 37.5-hour week with better pay.

She said according to their survey, the majority of respondents said if they were offered permanency, if incentives were in place they would stay.

She said they want to stay in their training country and they want to work here.