Nursing in the U.S.A

Study Finds Canadian Nurse Workforce May Lose Thousands to Retirement

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By Robert Scally, assistant editor

Canada could lose as many as 29,746 nurses by 2006 to retirement and death, equal to 13 percent of the 2001 nursing workforce, according to a new study conducted by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The CIHI study based its estimate of the number of nurses leaving the profession at a retirement age of 65. If Canadian nurses retire early at 55, the number of nurses leaving the profession would skyrocket to 64,248, equal to 28 percent of the nursing workforce in 2001, according to the study

Similar to the nursing workforce in the United States, the Canadian nursing workforce has age demographics working against it.

The Canadian nursing workforce continues to age, the study found. The average age of a Canadian RN increased by 1.6 years between 1998 and 2002, from 42.6 years to 44.2 years.

In 2002, there were more RNs in the Canadian workforce ages 55 to 59 than ages 25 to 29. For every RN age 35 or under in Canada, there were 1.7 RNs age 50 or more. In 2002 the youngest nursing workforce was in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador at 40.6 years and the oldest was in British Columbia at 45.2 years old.

The study called for the implementation of retention incentives as means of preventing an exodus of older nurses from the profession.

The CIHI study also highlighted other major trends in the Canadian nursing workforce.

After more than a decade of growth in the 1980s, the number of RNs employed in nursing in Canada decreased in the mid-1990s and has remained relatively stable since, according to the report.

There were 230,957 RNs working in Canada in 2002, an increase of 1.4 percent since 1998 when there were 227,814 RNs employed.

During the past five years, a major shift from casual to full-time work has taken place among Canadian nurses.

The number of RNs working full-time reached a five-year high of 54.1 percent in 2002, compared to 49.1 percent in 1998. During the same period, casual employment dropped to 11.8 percent in 2002 from 18.6 percent in 1998. Part-time employment increased only marginally, from 32.2 percent in 1998 to 33.8percent in 2002.

"That’s a positive trend for the nursing profession, especially the dramatic increase we are seeing in full-time jobs among newer nurses with less than five years’ experience," Canadian nursing expert and University of Toronto professor Linda O’Brien Pallas, said in a statement.

"More full-time jobs means a more stable workforce," Pallas said. "However, the overall supply of nurses is still not keeping pace with population growth so the bottom line is we still need to train more RNs. Another positive trend is the big increase in RNs entering the workforce with degrees, which helps expand the role of nursing in our increasingly complex health system."

Of the RN workforce in 2002, 13.2 percent earned a baccalaureate degree before entering practice.

This rate has continued to increase during the past five years. In 1998, 10. 6 percent of Canada’s RN workforce had earned a baccalaureate degree before entering practice. Of those graduating since 1998, more than 40 percent entered practice with a baccalaureate degree.

In 2002, a total of 58,649 Canadian RNs had obtained a baccalaureate degree.

Hospitals remain the number one workplace for RNs in Canada, employing approximately 63 percent of them across the country, the study found.

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