OTTAWA, Dec. 9 /CNW/ -Canada has six per cent more registered nurses today than it did five years ago, an increase that is expected to improve access to care while decreasing wait times.
The nursing workforce figures are contained in a new report released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Canada has 266,341 RNs, according to the CIHI data, which were collected from 2005-2009.
Another report, released last week by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN), shows a 10-year high in student admissions to nursing programs.
Despite a five per cent increase in the population over the past five years, CNA was pleased to note that Canada was tackling its nursing shortage - an important step to ensuring Canadians receive the care where and when they need it.
"This is encouraging news for the nearly five million Canadians who don't have regular access to primary health-care providers," said CNA president Judith Shamian. The CIHI report reveals that an increasing number of Canadians are receiving expert care from nurse practitioners (NPs), with the number of NPs doubling over five years to nearly 2,000. The CNA/CASN education stats, which were released December 3, confirm this trend: 39 per cent more students graduated from NP programs in the 2008-2009 school year.
NPs are an important strategy for improving access to primary care. NP-led clinics have been successfully introduced in Ontario, Quebec has pledged to create 500 new NP positions, and Manitoba last week announced a major investment in NP-led quick-care clinics. The trend continues in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, which lead the country in the number of NPs per capita.
Unfortunately, the CIHI numbers reveal that most new RN positions are in hospitals rather than community-based care. CNA advocates building the up-stream base of the health system, with more resources dedicated to primary care, community care and health promotion/illness prevention activities.
"Bringing care closer to home and placing an emphasis on prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment are proven strategies that avert costly hospital stays down the road - freeing up beds and reducing emergency room bottlenecks," said CNA CEO Rachel Bard. "Similarly, CNA would also like to see a shift in investment towards long-term care, home care and chronic disease management."
Employers are increasingly recognizing the value of extending full-time employment to nurses - a significant factor in workforce retention, continuity of care and patient safety. Close to 60 per cent of the RN workforce now has full-time employment, an increase of almost four percentage points over five years ago. Newfoundland and Labrador is the most progressive province in this regard, with almost three-quarters of its RNs enjoying full-time employment - well above CNA's national target of 70 per cent.
The growth in full-time employment is a particularly good development for Canadians as we brace for more aggressive U.S. recruitment of health-care professionals to cope with the increased demand for medical services under "Obamacare." "Studies show that a lack of full-time employment was a major factor that led our nurses to seek employment in the U.S. in the 1990s. As a result, Canadian nursing levels dropped dramatically," said
Shamian. "CNA is calling on the federal government to commit to keeping health-care talent in Canada and channel it to areas where it is most needed."
CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. It is a federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing 139,893 registered nurses. CNA believes that the sustainability of a quality, publicly funded, not-for-profit health system rests upon a vibrant nursing workforce.
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Director, Corporate Communications
Canadian Nurses Association