Last week, medical students took action online for a ‘full’ internship allowance during their internships. “Hospital interns work over 50 hours a week, which means they don’t have time for a part-time job on the side. But due to the low compensation, many of them have no choice”, says Pim van den Boon, student at Erasmus University Rotterdam and president of De Geneeskundestudent, the interest group for Dutch medical students.

Interns working in disabled care facilities are already receiving 400 euros per month. De Geneeskundestudent would like to see general hospitals include such a remuneration for hospital interns in their new collective labour agreement. Negotiations are still underway.

Long battle

The interns’ battle for remuneration goes way back. Exactly fifty years ago they demanded compensation in the form of lower tuition fees, which were 1000 guilders at the time. Unsuccessfully. For the longest time they had to make do without any form of expense compensation.

After the basic student grant was abolished in 2015, over seven thousand hospital interns sounded the alarm again. But former Minister of Education Jet Bussemaker was unwilling to budge. Her reasoning was that medical students would be earning a high enough income later on to pay off their higher student debts. And the comparison to nursing students fell short in her opinion: they do more work during their internships.

Coming around

It wasn’t until 2019 that interest group De Geneeskundestudent and the unions achieved their first success; university hospitals were willing to include an expense allowance of 100 euros in their collective labour agreement. That same year, general hospitals came around to the idea as well.

President Pim van den Boon is now hoping for more, because, in his opinion, the difference in remuneration compared to other interns is inexplicable. “Many students, but also doctors’ organisations and other supporters, have shared clips on social media (#handenopelkaarvoordeco) and our petition has been signed more than 13,000 times. If the general hospitals agree, the university teaching hospitals will hopefully follow soon.”

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