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Eliminating Canada’s RN shortage – News Release

Ottawa, May 11, 2009 – The Canadian Nurses Association released a report on six policy scenarios today that, if implemented together, could eliminate Canada’s registered nursing (RN) shortage.

Tested Solutions for Eliminating Canada’s Registered Nurse Shortage demonstrates thatif significant action isn’t taken now, the shortage of registered nurses who provide direct, clinical care to Canadians will climb from the equivalent of nearly 11,000 full-time nurses in 2007 to almost 60,000 in 2022.

"The recent H1N1 flu virus is a reminder that Canada needs a nursing workforce that can meet the health challenges of our nation," said CNA president Kaaren Neufeld. "At times like these, a shortage of registered nurses only adds to an already worrisome situation."

According to Neufeld, the report will help governments, employers, decision-makers and others improve RN shortages using a combination of short- and long-term policy scenarios. “At the same time, it will reduce our dependency on registered nurses from other countries that can’t afford to lose their nurses.”

If implemented together, the six scenarios outlined in the report can eradicate the nursing shortage. In the short term, a change in work practices that supports RNs to provide quality care through initiatives such as hiring support staff to take on non-nursing tasks, employing a team-based collaborative approach to care, and using technology – which results in a one per cent annual increase in productivity of the RN workforce – would have a remarkable impact on the shortage, cutting it almost in half over a 15-year time frame.

The report points out that keeping nurses in the profession is also an important part of building Canada’s RN workforce. If the yearly loss of RNs under the age of 60 was less than two per cent, and the loss of those 60 or over was no more than 10 per cent, then 30,000 full-time nurses would effectively be added to Canada’s nursing supply, cutting the shortage in half over 15 years.

Other policies tested include reducing the number of students who don’t finish their nursing education from 28 per cent to 15 per cent, thus lowering the gap by another 24 per cent and adding the equivalent of 15,000 nurses over 15 years. Increasing the number of students enrolling in registered nursing programs by 1,000 per year between 2009 and 2011 would also reduce the gap by one-quarter (or 15,000 nurses) over 15 years. In addition, cutting the average number of missed days of work per year by half over the next three years (from the current 14 days per nurse) would be like adding 7,000 full-time nurses to Canada’s registered nursing pool. The final policy tested was to decrease international in-migration by 50 per cent, which would increase the RN shortage, but only by less than 10%.

“We’re very excited at these promising numbers,” said Neufeld. “These are realistic and tested solutions to a serious problem that is affecting Canadians’ health across the country. We urge all stakeholders to build these findings into their HHR planning and management of the RN workforce.”

CNA commissioned the report from a team of researchers lead by Gail Tomblin Murphy, Professor, School of Nursing /Faculty of Health Professions, and Director, WHO/PAHO Collaborating Centre on Health Workforce Planning and Research, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Read a summary report [PDF, 411.3 KB] of CNA’s Tested Solutions for Eliminating Canada’s Registered Nurse Shortage.

To receive a full copy of the report and/or to schedule an interview with a CNA spokesperson, please contact:

Paul Watson
Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Tel: 613-237-2159 X 283
Cell: 613-697-7507
E-mail: media@cna-aiic.ca