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Interview - Voice of youth

Dean Flanagan, the INMO’s student and new graduate officer, aims to allow the voice of younger members to be heard more clearly

The INMO’s recently appointed student and new graduate officer, Dean Flanagan, is a man with a plan – one that involves helping students to become more aware of the issues facing nurses and midwives, and encouraging them to be more involved with the Organisation.

The Lisdoonvarna native underwent his nursing training at St Angela’s in Sligo. During his time there, Dean was a student union officer, a role that saw him assisting in the organisation of various local marches against tuition fees and the introduction of the internship pay cuts.

Dean picked up some valuable skills during his time as a student activist; skills that he believes he can use effectively as an officer of the INMO.

“I’m coming to this role knowing that if something needs to be organised, you need to take time. There’s a lot of preparation involved before ever setting a foot on the ground,“ he said. “It is important to know what needs to be done, what needs to be organised, who needs to be contacted and when’s the most effective time to hold a protest etc.”

Before joining the INMO, Dean held a number of nursing roles: he was a staff nurse at the Millrace Nursing Home in Galway before returning to Sligo Regional Hospital, where he gained experience in the emergency department, medical wards, the ear, nose and throat department, and the ophthalmic ward over a period of two years.

In his role as INMO student and new graduate officer, Dean wants to travel around the country as much as he can to meet students in person, hear about their issues firsthand, and provide them with information from the INMO in person.

“I want to meet people as much as possible,” he explained. “I’m hoping to be on the road a lot so if there is an issue, I want people to contact me and when they do I will try to visit them face to face.”

One of Dean’s main goals is to promote the INMO youth forums, of which there are three based in Dublin, the West and Cork.

“These are relaxed environments where younger people can come and talk about issues that affect them. Branch meetings are fantastic tools, but I think sometimes younger people can get lost in that system,” he said.

According to Dean, the INMO youth forums will give younger members of the INMO the space to discuss the issues that are more relevant to them. By participating in the forums they can gain a better understanding of these issues by asking questions that they may feel reluctant to bring to branch meetings.

“They can seek clarification, try to understand words that are being used or try to understand any legislation, such as the Haddington Road Agreement, in basic terms,“ explained Dean.

“I know young people will eventually want to know about pensions and twilight hours, but at the start of their career, Voice of youth Dean Flanagan, the INMO’s student and new graduate officer, aims to allow the voice of younger members to be heard more clearly these are the last things on their minds. For students and graduates, it’s about the here and now, and how the issues affect them right now.“

Dean plans to attend most of the youth forum meetings, which usually take place every two months, and then integrate the issues that arise with the INMO.

Addressing the issues
Some of the main issues that have been highlighted for discussion at the previous forums by the younger INMO members include the government’s new graduate recruitment programme, LGBT issues, emigration, and the isolation of younger nurses and midwives in the workplace.

According to Dean, the recent high levels of emigration mean that many young people have found themselves working alone on wards with an older generation of nurses.

“There might be a significant age gap there – they feel isolated and they mightn’t know what to do about that,“ said Dean. “The youth forums can provide them with guidance and support in this situation.”

Dean says that the youth forum is a casual, informal environment – and a resource that, unfortunately, is being under-utilised at the moment. He believes that this is partly due to a stigma that the meetings will be “long winded and irrelevant” to students.

“The point that I want to get across is that the issues that are going to be discussed at youth forums are only going to be the issues that are relevant to the younger people,“ he said.

Ear to the ground
Over the coming months Dean will visit colleges around the country to meet nursing and midwifery students, and also call into hospitals to meet the new graduates of the professions. On the ground, he aims to sign as many young members up to the INMO as possible.

Dean will also endeavour to collect information on any issues that young members may be experiencing. He aims to promote the youth forums as a platform for highlighting and debating these issues.

Also in his plans, is the development of a social media network that will allow young INMO members to request that specific issue be included on the agenda of upcoming youth forum meetings.

“For students and new graduates in general, I think that everyone is more adept to the internet and social media,” said Dean.

With this in mind, he advised young members to exercise caution when using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Everything you put up on social media is going to be viewed by someone,“ he said. “Social networking is fantastic, but if there is anything that you’re annoyed about, try to keep that private and not to put it on your Facebook page.“

Confidentiality with regards to students’ professional activities is another area that Dean spoke about.

“Keep your personal life personal and your work life for work, and try not to include your work life on your personal profile, “ he advised.

Settling in to college life
Dean also had advice for students who may be daunted about starting college for the first time, or even going back to college to begin a new academic year.

“I can remember for every college year, from first to fourth, how nervous I was always,” he said. “If you can just try to feel relaxed and enjoy your new lifestyle because it’s really, really important to enjoy the experience that you’re going to have in college and on your placements.“

According to Dean, induction week presents a great opportunity for first-year students to become accustomed to their college course and the different supports and services offered by the INMO to its members.

“It’s during the induction week that I am going to try to meet the first-years,“ said Dean. “I will also get them signed up with the Student Section of the INMO hopefully.“

Freshers’ Week is also a great time for students to socialise, get to know their peers better, and make new friends.

“It’s usually the first time that the students are going to get a chance to meet the members of their current student union in the college,” Dean told WIN. “It’s very important that they strike a proper balance between the social part of college and the demands of the course.“

Clubs and societies day is another college event that provides students with a chance to sign up for different recreational activities, and to even set up their own societies. Dean suggests that nursing and midwifery students think about setting up a society specifically for people studying those professions, as was done in UCD in recent years.

“I think this is a fantastic idea,“ he said. “If there’s anyone in any of the colleges that is looking to set up a nursing society, I would be delighted to help them and to give them a hand.“

Dean realises, from personal experience, that some students struggle to keep up academically, and can find it difficult to concentrate on their studies.

“I know for a fact that settling into the books is very hard over the four years, and in particular, how easy it is to fall behind and feel absolutely and completely lost,“ he said. “The biggest tip I have for students is to let your lecturer know immediately if you’re having any trouble whatsoever.

“Don’t let it go until the night before the big assignment is due. The second you feel that you are struggling, send your lecturer an email, or try to schedule a meeting with them to let them know that you’re struggling.

Study tips
Dean says that students should pencil specific study times into their schedule to keep on top of course work. He also advised that they use the ‘study days’ marked out in their college timetables productively.

“A trap that most people fall into is that their study day is a day off, but the study day is there to let you study, to use the library in the college, and also just to have some down time. If you’re planning to study for two hours, also have some downtime.“

He also highlighted that the INMO library and the Nurse2Nurse website (www.nurse2nurse.ie) were invaluable resources for students and new graduate members of the union.

“You can even chat to a librarian through instant messaging on the website to get any queries answered,“ he said.

Dean pointed out that INMO student and graduate members can avail of the group scheme, which offers discounts on a range of products and services, from clothing to holidays.

“There are walk-in discounts that you can get by just presenting the INMO card, and there are fuel discounts and holiday getaways too,“ he said.

- Gillian Tsoi

Interview - Voice of youth
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