Canada's nursing workforce grows 9 per cent in five years

Nurse practitioners an emerging specialty: Report
||Last Updated: 02/01/2011

Between 2005 and 2009, Canada gained just more than 27,000 nurses, bringing the total regulated nursing workforce to about 348,500, according to a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). This represents an increase of nine per cent when the Canadian population grew by five per cent over the same period.

Over the past five years, growth among registered nurses (RNs) and practical nurses (LPNs) has exceeded the rate of growth of the Canadian population, while growth in the registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) workforce has kept pace with population growth in the western provinces they serve. However, there are actually fewer registered nurses today relative to the size of the population than there were 20 years ago, according to CIHI's report Regulated Nurses: Canadian Trends, 2005 to 2009. In 1992, there were 824 RNs for every 100,000 Canadians, compared to 789 per 100,000 in 2009.

"In the mid-1990s, with cuts to health-care budgets across Canada, we saw reductions in the numbers of nurses and other health-care professionals working in this country, as governments implemented hiring freezes and early retirement packages," said Michael Hunt, CIHI's director of pharmaceuticals and health workforce information services. "Despite reinvestments in health care over the past 10 years, the ratio of nurses to the Canadian population has still not returned to what it was in the early '90s. In contrast, the number of physicians relative to the size of the population is now at an all-time high."