Shortage of nurses looms across Canada
could lose 32% of its nurses in three years if they retire at
CanWest News Service
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Canada can expect to lose nearly 30,000 registered nurses, 13
per cent of the workforce, to retirement and death over the
next three years -- and that's the best case scenario.
to a study released Tuesday, if the trend of nurses taking
early retirement at 55 continues a pace, the numbers lost
could more than double that, to above 64,000, or 28 per cent
of the RN workforce in 2001.
the problem is the fact that the rate of growth in the number
of registered nurses was only 1.1 per cent between 1997 and
2001. That's less than the population growth in general and
means Canada already has a decreasing number of nurses per
person. In 2001 there were 74.1 nurses per 10,000 population,
down from 75.9 in 1997.
critical still is the prospect that the diminishing number of
nurses will disproportionately affect the long-term care
sector, just as aging baby boomers ensure it becomes one of
the more crucial parts of the health system.
study, released on Tuesday by the Canadian Institute for
Health Information, found that if nurses could be persuaded to
abandon early retirement and work until 65, by 2006 Quebec
will lose still 16 per cent of its nurses, British Columbia 14
per cent, Ontario 12 per cent, Manitoba and Saskatchewan 11
per cent, the Atlantic provinces 10 per cent and Alberta nine
however, the lure of Freedom 55 is too great, British Columbia
will lose the most RNs, with a whopping 32 per cent predicted
to leave the workforce. Ontario is a close second with a loss
of 29 per cent predicted, Alberta follows with 28 per cent,
Manitoba and Saskatchewan with 27 per cent, Quebec with 26 per
cent and Atlantic Canada with 22 per cent.
interview, the author of the report, Dr. Linda O'Brien-Pallas,
a professor of nursing at the University of Toronto, said
there was still time to reverse at least the worst of the
dwindling numbers if the problems nurses face in their
workplaces start to be addressed immediately.
the results [of the study] are somewhat shocking, it might be
the momentum we need right now in this country to help policy
makers and people who manage nurses to recognize it is time to
pay attention to the worklife issues if we want to retain
senior nurses in the workforce," O'Brien-Pallas said.
money was not one of the incentives O'Brien-Pallas listed when
she considered ways to convince nurses to forego early
retirement and work until they are 65.
the more important factors are reducing workload, making sure
the working environment is safe and finding a way to make
nurses feel valued.
now, O'Brien-Pallas said too much of a nurse's time is taken
up with non-nursing duties -- like moving furniture and
calling labs -- because there is no one else to do them.
stressed that as the nursing population ages -- nearly
one-third of RNs in Canada are 50 or older --more
consideration has to be given to coping with the physical
aspects of the job that regularly leave nurses with strained
and pulled muscles.
O'Brien-Pallas claimed that a simple "thanks," a pat
on the back and an appreciation of all the work a nurse is
doing would go a long way toward creating the kind of working
environment RNs would happily continue in until they are 65.
Calnan, president of the Canadian Association of Nurses, adds
that the fact that so many nursing jobs are now part-time and
casual employment instead of full-time positions also has to
be reversed and that more emphasis has to be placed on
flexible working hours. As the nursing population ages, he
said, alternatives have to be found for the traditional long,
unsociable shifts in most hospitals.
per cent of Canadians opt for early retirement. Studies have
indicated that in the health care field that number jumps to
49 per cent. O'Brien-Pallas said that among RNs the usual
retirement age is now 56 to 58 years.
losing experience, and experience counts for the quality of
care in our health system," Calnan warned.
pointed out that there are not enough entry level nurses to
replace all the retirees. In 1990, he said, 10,000 nurses
graduated. This year, there were only 4,900 across the
Calnan said, if recent trends continue, 10 per cent will leave
Canada to work because they cannot find permanent, full-time
jobs at home and another 20 per cent will drop out of nursing
because of the kind of workplace issues O'Brien-Pallas
study is just one of several over the past year to highlight
the crisis in nursing in Canada and Calnan maintained there is
now enough of a "convergence" in the findings to
call for a "bold plan of action" from governments to
deal with the problems plaguing the profession.
2003 Vancouver Sun