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More nurses on the front lines of health care: report – News Release

Ottawa, December 18, 2009 – A growing number of registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are working in positions of first point of contact between patients and the health-care system, helping improve patient access to primary care and driving down wait times. The latest report on nursing workforce trends, released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), reveals data that support the Canadian Nurses Association’s (CNA) vision on nursing and health.

Over the past year, the total number of RNs employed in nursing rose from 257,961 to 261,889, a 1.5% increase. However, the increases were more dramatic among the number of RNs working in community health (17%) and those working in telehealth positions (15%). Since 2004, Canada has also seen a doubling of the number of NPs joining the workforce. NPs are registered nurses with additional educational preparation and experience, who, within their legislated scope of practice, can order tests and medications, prescribe pharmaceuticals, and perform specific procedures.

“Increases in the number of RNs and NPs employed will have a positive impact on timely access to health care in Canada. We are, however, concerned about the decrease in the number of RNs working in geriatrics and long-term care. Seniors are the fastest growing segment of our population and have complex health-care needs,” said CNA president Kaaren Neufeld. “Employers need to ensure Canadian seniors have direct access to the expertise and care of RN’s.”

The Alzheimer Society of Canada confirms that one in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia – conditions that require comprehensive nursing care. The society projects that within a generation, the numbers will more than double to between one and 1.3 million people.

The CIHI report shows that although there was an increase over the last year in the number of Canadian-educated nurses (1.6%), the influx of internationally educated nurses rose even higher, by 8.2%.

“Although it is important to fill the gap caused by our country’s RN shortage, CNA is concerned about the ethical aspects of this trend and hopes that Canada is not recruiting from countries that have nursing shortages of their own. Our goal is to have appropriate measures in place to ensure self-sufficiency in meeting the demand for registered nurses,” said Rachel Bard, CNA chief executive officer.

A CNA report released earlier this year [PDF, 411.3 KB] brought forward solutions to dealing with Canada’s current and projected RN shortage.

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 over 135,000 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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For more information, contact:
Paul Watson, Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
613-237-2159 x283
E-mail: pwatson@cna-aiic.ca