Canada’s nursing workforce experiences slowest growth in a decade

While it is positive news that Canada’s nursing workforce continued to grow from 2016 to 2017 according the latest data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), it is concerning this past year experienced the slowest growth in 10 years. Given our growing and ageing population’s increasing healthcare needs this slowdown is a notable shift worth monitoring.

Of greatest concern, however, is the marked decline in Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPN) working in the province.  2017 had the lowest number of RPNs registered since 2010.

This is a worrying trend considering the recently identified gaps in services to meet the province’s growing mental health and addictions needs highlighted in 2018’s first provincial auditor’s report.

Everything is interconnected. The need to invest in mental health is urgent and no longer in dispute. It must become one of our top health care priorities. A system that truly promotes the overall health and wellness of society must acknowledge and invest in both the physical and mental health needs of the population is serves. Wise mental health investment will not only improve the quality of life for so many, it will also pay dividends in terms of fewer physician and emergency room visits and even lowered social welfare costs.

Another point of concern relating to the declining numbers in the overall nursing workforce, is the number of Saskatchewan’s registered nurses eligible for retirement or considering leaving the profession.  SUN’s 2018 member survey found that 19.2% of SUN members (about 1 in 5) are eligible to retire NOW, while 38.6% (more than 1 in 3) of SUN members have considered leaving the profession in the last 12 months.

The slight declines in the number of registered nurses providing direct care; the inflow of registered nurses under the age of 35; and the numbers of registered nurses in specialty care areas such as oncology, perinatal, hospice-palliative, gerontology, emergency, and critical care are also numbers worth watching in the annual CIHI report.

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