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Home > Article Categories > Medical Articles > Is Nursing on the Rise in Canada?

Is Nursing on the Rise in Canada?

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Is nursing booming or stalling in Canada? While the country's supply of nurses has not yet returned to its former levels before health care budget cuts in the 1990s, it appears as if the nursing workforce is growing. Studies on the availability of nurses in Canada demonstrate that while the number of nurses is increasing once more, the relative percentage of nurses to the population is smaller than 20 years ago.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collected nursing data from 2005 to 2009 and reported that Canada has a little over 266,000 registered nurses (RNs). However, their relative number is shrinking, unable to keep up with the growing medical needs of the country. In 1992, there were 824 RNs for every 100,000 Canadians, but in 2009 there were 789 RNs per 100,000 Canadians.

The 1990s brought changes to Canadian health services. In the mid-90s the country saw widespread health care budget cuts and the number of nurses and other health care professionals shrunk as governments implemented hiring freezes and early retirement packages. Doctors fared better than nurses, and the number of physicians relative to the size of the population is at an all-time high of 4.1 percent, according to CIHI's director of pharmaceuticals and health workforce information services Michael Hunt. Carol Brulé, a manager of health human resources at CIHI in Ottowa, remarked that while the country has not yet grown to nursing workforce levels that peaked in the 1990s, the number of nurses working in Canada is growing. "I think seeing that between 2004 and 2009, the regulated nursing workforce has grown by nearly nine per cent. I think that's good news," she said.

Many fear that former ratios of nurses to the population will not reach their former peak because of a long recession and the high cost of health care staff. "We're very concerned that the 1990s attitude will happen again, which is balance the provincial budget regardless," said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, "And the regardless is always they hit the health department so much because it's the largest portion."

The CIHI data demonstrates that most new RN positions in Canada are in hospitals rather than community-based care, contrary to the current push for more outpatient facilities and clinics that are more specialized and closer to home. The CIHI report also said that the average age of a Canadian nurse remained stable at 45 for the period they studied. This indicates that people who enter the nursing workforce are remaining in that profession. Despite the hard work, nursing has long been a profession that some people are drawn to, and expanding options for what sort of work nurses can do makes the field even more desirable. A student can become a nurse practitioner, which requires more education and experience, but allows the nurse to order and interpret diagnostic tests, perform some procedures, and even sometimes prescribe pharmaceuticals. Students can also choose a field specialization of nursing which similarly requires additional training but also allows nurses to have more flexibility in how they work and what they can do directly for patient care.

In a different report issued by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, it was demonstrated that Canada has reached at 10-year high in student admissions to nursing programs.



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