The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned that the coronavirus pandemic will exacerbate the "severe" staffing pressure in Ireland's health service.
On the International Day of the Nurse, the INMO has called for an urgent increase in the number of undergraduate nursing and midwifery places, saying that to provide safe care, staffing levels must be enhanced.
Of the 3,699 nurses and midwives who joined the nursing and midwifery register in Ireland last year, 13% (483) had trained elsewhere in the EU, with nearly half (49%, 1,819) having trained outside of the EU.
The INMO warned that the global pandemic means a likely drop in overseas recruitment, resulting in additional staffing pressures in coming years.
The INMO said over 5,000 students put nursing or midwifery as their first preference in the CAO last year and more places should be made available to accommodate them.
The union added that a moratorium, pause or any other measure to slow down recruitment cannot be countenanced.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: "Today is a day to celebrate nurses. We have been deeply humbled by the strong public support for our profession. During Covid-19, International Nurses Day has taken on an even stronger meaning for the public and our members.
"We must ensure that frontline staff are given the support and resources they need to do their job. To provide safe care, we need to build up our staffing levels.
"Ireland must continue to recruit staff from around the world, but also to train more ourselves. We train far fewer nurses and midwives than we need, but we know that thousands more want to join the nursing family."
Emergency department infrastructure must be upgraded, says IAEM
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) has said that emergency department infrastructure must be upgraded, to allow social distancing for staff and patients and to allow segregation/isolation of those with infectious disease.
It said that staffing in emergency departments must be adequate to compensate for the extra time required in certain patient encounters, in safely putting on and taking off personal protective equipment.
The association said there must be rapid access to the supports necessary, like diagnostics for rapid and effective decision-making, so that patients spend as short a time as possible in the department.
The IAEM added that unoccupied beds must be always available, so that once a decision is made that a patient needs to be admitted to a hospital bed (which is 25-30% of those who attend ED), this can occur immediately.