Rotherham woman earns more in Australian ice cream shop than she did as a nurse

Mailu Durant left her job as a nurse after only a year due to the stress it was causing her. Credit: Mailu Durant

A former nurse who says she now earns more selling ice cream in Australia is backing calls for better pay for NHS staff.

Mailu Durant, 22, qualified as a nurse in 2021 and worked in a hospital in Rotherham for a year.

But she said she left the profession after struggling with her mental health and battling "unsafe staffing levels and the lack of support".

After travelling through South East Asia she moved to Australia and found a job at an ice cream parlour in Melbourne.

Mailu (right) serves ice cream in Melbourne to pay for the process of becoming a nurse there. Credit: Mailu Durant

Miss Durant said she now earns the Australian equivalent of £17 an hour to serve ice cream – higher than the £13.87 she was paid as a nurse.

When differences in living costs between the countries are taken into account using the latest OECD figures, the ice cream shop still pays more with an adjusted equivalent wage of roughly £14.50 per hour.

She said better pay would help the NHS attract and retain staff.

"I think if the government recognised the work that nurses do every day, the fact that we are a graduate profession, and that we put a lot of time and effort into our work, and they gave us an incentive to want to continue working with the NHS, it would increase safe staffing levels," she said.

"It'd make more people want to join, fewer nurses want to leave, fewer nurses [experiencing] burnout."

Miss Durant, 22, said she was "excited to help people" when she became a nurse.

  • Mailu Durant speaks to ITV News

But she quickly started to suffer from stress as she was left trying to cover rota gaps.

"I was spending 30% of my time ringing around agencies, ringing around nurses that do cover shifts on the ward to try and get them to come in," said Miss Durant.

"I shouldn't be spending that much of my time ringing around to try and find nurses. There were a lot of times where I got left on my own.

"I thought, 'I'm too young to have this much stress on my plate, I want to see what else is out in the world'."

In a viral TikTok video, Miss Durant posted about the wage disparity between her current and former jobs.

  • Credit: Mailu Durant

But she said she had not given up on nursing altogether and plans to become a nurse in Australia.

"Eventually I will be a nurse in Australia," she said... "[The process] is quite lengthy. It's taking a little bit of time to get all my background checks done, and also it's quite expensive as well, so that's why I need to work in the ice cream shop to save up money.

"I believe the starting salary for a nurse in Australia is $44 (approximately £25) an hour."

Adjusted for living costs, the OECD says that's equivalent to £21.65 an hour in the UK.

Mailu qualified as a nurse in 2021 but left the profession in September 2022. Credit: Mailu Durant

Miss Durant's comments come as thousands of nurses across England take strike action as a bitter pay dispute with the government continues.

Nursing staff from more than 55 NHS trusts are involved in industrial action on Wednesday and Thursday following two days of action in December.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced that two further, bigger strikes will be held next month, while the GMB union is expected to announce further ambulance worker strike dates.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said he recognises the cost of living pressures on NHS staff, but "unaffordable pay rises" will stoke inflation.

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