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
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
"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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