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First comprehensive study of nursing human resources released
May 9, 2005
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Ottawa, Canada. -- Canada's nursing stakeholders released the first comprehensive picture of the nursing human resources situation in Canada. The report reaffirms concerns related to the nursing shortage, and urges the various members of the nursing sector, including federal, provincial, and territorial governments, to consider its findings and recommendations as they strive to address the health care needs of Canadians now and in the future.

The findings and recommendations were presented at Health Canada's National Nursing Week launch event in Ottawa.

"Building the Future: An integrated strategy for nursing human resources in Canada is a milestone project," says Annette Osted, Building the Future Co- Chair. "It marks the first time all nursing stakeholders, from licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs), to employers, unions, educators, physicians, and provincial, territorial and federal governments, work together to assess the sector's capacity to manage the current and future demands on the nursing professions."

The report provides the nursing sector with more information than ever before on how the three regulated nursing groups are trained, utilized and managed.

"What is most striking is what this report tells us about the impact this situation is having on certain sectors, particularly long-term care where some of the most vulnerable are cared for," said Lisa Little, Building the Future Co-Chair. "The evidence tells us that patient care is suffering because of issues related to the nursing crisis. We urge the federal, provincial and territorial governments to use the findings of this study to support the development of evidence-based health human resource plans."

Funded by the Government of Canada's Sector Council Program, the goal of this project is to use evidence to create an informed and integrated labour market strategy for the three regulated nursing groups in Canada. The first step was to collect the evidence and make recommendations. The next step will be for the sector to develop an integrated strategy to address the issues.

The research findings provide a disquieting picture of nursing human resources in Canada today. They also highlight fundamental issues, which need to be addressed urgently. Findings include:

  • A large proportion of nurses is over 50 years of age and will be eligible for early retirement or actual retirements in the next few years. Retirement was the most commonly cited reason for leaving the nursing professions;
  • The results of the nursing shortage have been: increased overtime (often involuntarily), altered staffing mix, increased use of community-based care; and increased wait times for services;
  • While most nursing education programs can accommodate an expansion in    enrolment, half of them report not having the resources to do so. In addition, most nursing programs (95%) compete with other health care provider programs for clinical placements.

To address the findings, the nursing stakeholders developed 10 recommendations including the need to: create an adequate supply of nurses; develop a pan-Canadian approach to nursing education and provide opportunities for inter-disciplinary education; implement mechanisms to address workload issues; and, enhance data collection capabilities.

As a next step, the findings and recommendations will be discussed with provincial and territorial governments and health care stakeholder groups, including the federal government in a series of consultations. The overall goal of this dialogue is to not only share these results with stakeholder groups but to also encourage the development of an integrated strategy on nursing human resources in Canada.

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