Registered Nurses respond to CIHI Report

EDMONTON, Dec. 9 /CNW/ - The report released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Regulated Nurses: Canadian Trends, 2005-2009, highlights the importance of investing in nursing education in Alberta and dispels some myths about registered nurses, according to the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA).

"In Alberta, we need to increase the number of nursing graduates while the baby-boomer nurses are still working in the health system, providing care and mentoring new graduates and internationally educated nurses," says Joan Petruk, CARNA president. "As the report shows, twenty-four per cent of Alberta's registered nurses are age 55 and older, giving us just a few years before the demographic profile changes significantly for registered nurses in this province."

CIHI figures show there are fewer registered nurses today relative to the size of the population than there were 20 years ago. In 1992, there were 824 registered nurses for every 100,000 Canadians, compared to 789 per 100,000 in 2009. The registered nurse workforces in BC (16.5%), Ontario (11.6%) and Alberta (10.0%) had the highest concentrations of internationally educated nurses.

"The most effective approach to the nursing shortage is to increase the number of nursing education spaces and then hire most of the new graduates each year," says Petruk. "Education, effective retention strategies and targeted international recruitment will all be needed to address the nursing shortage. New hospital beds cannot open without nursing staff to provide care for the people who are admitted into them."

In 2009, 91.7 per cent of Alberta registered nurses identified direct care as their area of responsibility while the proportion employed in administration was among the lowest in the country. Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan had less than 5 per cent of registered nurses employed in administration. The report includes information about nurse practitioners who are registered nurses with additional education and are authorized to independently diagnose, prescribe and treat patients. While the proportion of nurse practitioners employed in the community health sector has decreased, the proportion in the hospital sector has increased. Overall, 93.7 per cent of nurse practitioners provide direct care.

"This report should dispel the myth that registered nurses with university degrees don't provide direct nursing care," says Mary-Anne Robinson, CARNA's chief executive officer. "Using registered nurses and nurse practitioners more extensively to provide community primary care services can improve access to health services. Effective management of chronic illness and health promotion hold the keys to reducing demand of health services, particularly as the population ages. These are areas where registered nurses excel."

Robinson continues, "Over the past year, as many as 10 nurse practitioners either didn't renew their licenses or left the province because they couldn't find work in Alberta. Moving forward, Alberta cannot afford to lose valued health professionals to other provinces when we need them here."

CARNA is the professional and regulatory body for Alberta's 33,000 registered nurses, including nurses in direct care, education, research and administration as well as nurse practitioners. Its mandate is to protect the public by ensuring that Albertans receive effective, safe and ethical care by registered nurses.

SOURCE College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta

For further information: For further information: Margaret Ward-Jack, tel: 780.453.0515, cell: 780-932-1376, mwardjack@nurses.ab.ca

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College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta

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