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Canada welcomes first-ever State of the World’s Nursing report

April 8, 2020 — We applaud the State of the World’s Nursing report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now as part of the 2020 celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. The report comes at an unprecedented time as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses globally and in Canada are playing a critical role in the response, making it clear why investing in professional nursing has never being so vital. The extensive report contains much-needed global data and evidence and sets out 10 key directions for nursing workforce policy.

“The proposed policy directions will propel nursing forward globally, providing a sharp focus on areas where the nursing profession can best contribute to improving health outcomes and achieving the sustainable development goals,” said CNA president Claire Betker. One of the main challenges the report identifies are current global nursing shortages and the need for greater investment in educating the nursing workforce. “Investing in nursing is a benefit to society, not a cost,” said Annette Kennedy, president of the International Council of Nurses. CNA calls on governments to increase their investment in the nursing workforce in Canada.

CNA is pleased to highlight strengths of the nursing workforce in Canada that align with the report’s recommendations. For example, in 2019, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported a growth of 1% in the nursing workforce, with more than 431,000 regulated nurses working from coast to coast to coast. Second, the quality of our nursing education programs and accreditation processes ensures the development of a highly competent nursing workforce. Third, the development of advanced practice roles ensures the nursing workforce is evolving to reflect the health-care needs of Canadians; these roles include the clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, and those in specialty nursing practices and extended roles with prescription authority. However, there are many opportunities to continue to optimize these nursing roles to best meet changing populations and complex community care needs. Finally, while new models of care are making a difference in health outcomes by increasing timely access to care, there are gaps and increased demands in the home- and long-term care sectors.

CNA welcomes the proposed directions and actions that align with our concerns about unacceptable workplace violence, gender inequality, sexual harassment and discrimination. We continue to advocate for a pan-Canadian strategy to study workplace violence and implement preventive strategies across Canada.

Aligned with CNA’s position, the report emphasized the value of nursing leadership and participation of nurses in decision-making forums. In June 2019, CNA joined Nursing Now to create a leadership development hub for all regulated nurses and called for the re-establishment of a federal chief nursing officer role in Canada. Along with the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association (CINA), we are co-leading activities to advance nursing leadership and the Indigenous nursing workforce to provide culturally safe care across Canada, particularly for Indigenous Peoples during this year’s Nursing Now activities.

Canada requires re-establishment of the federal chief nursing officer role, reporting to the deputy health minister, to provide strategic and technical health policy advice, as well as human resources planning and clinical advice. Reinstating this position will support the federal government to deliver on its health policy mandate.

The current COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges for the nursing workforce due to significant gaps in numbers and specialty practice in some sectors. There is an opportunity to learn from the virtual care models that are now being used by nurse practitioners and other regulated nurses. We cannot underestimate the value and critical role that regulated nurses play in all sectors and settings of the health system.

CNA looks forward to continuing to work with its partners and all levels of government, as well as ICN, to enable and continue to support optimal development and use of the nursing workforce in Canada. We will continue to advance our advocacy on nursing leadership and workforce policies to address workplace environments.

Quote from the Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada:
“The World Health Organization declared this year the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Yesterday was World Health Day. This year, the world is profoundly challenged with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses are the largest group of health-care professionals on the front line every day and in every country. We are there when the world needs us along with other professional colleagues who need us every day. Nurse practitioners’ scope of practice is advanced and we are providing excellent nursing and medical care to patients around the world. In Canada, we are meeting the day-to-day needs of our patients in this crisis.” Lenora Brace, president, Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada.

Quote from the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association:
“We recognize and commit to our participation in World Health Day with our Indigenous health-care partners in our respective territories and regions across Canada and globally. The new challenges of COVID-19 increase the demand for safe, high-quality, and effective patient-centred health-care services. The future of Canada’s Indigenous nurses is a dedicated commitment to patient care, improved cultural competence and safety, which will result in better outcomes for Indigenous people. We are prepared to design and develop distinction-based legislation that will bring forward the traditional and current strengths of the Indigenous nursing profession to contribute as team members with an expanded workforce. Following the release of the State of the World’s Nursing report, we will continue the dialogue on how the recommendations can be translated into action, and serve as the basis for an extensive implementation phase to be facilitated by CINA and our partners at CNA.” Lea Bill, president, Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association.

ICN calls for governments to accept all recommendations of WHO State of the World’s Nursing report: press release from ICN


About the Canadian Nurses Association
The Canadian Nurses Association is a powerful, unified voice for the Canadian nursing profession. We represent regulated and retired nurses in all 13 provinces and territories. We advance the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

For more information, please contact:

Eve Johnston
Media and Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Tel: 613-237-2159, ext. 114
Cell: 613-282-7859
Email: ejohnston@cna-aiic.ca