Government on right track - but not fast track - to boost full-time work for Ontario RNs: RNAO survey
TORONTO, June 14, 2005 – Results from a survey of Ontario registered nurses and health-care employers show that government efforts to increase full-time work for RNs are starting to pay off, but the goal of having 70 per cent of all RNs working full time won’t be met without more targeted funding and better working conditions for nurses.
Those conclusions are found in a report entitled The 70 per cent solution: A progress report on increasing full-time employment for Ontario RNs, released today by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). The results of the survey, funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, are based on responses from 1,515 RNs and 280 hospital, community and long-term care employers in Ontario.
“The link between more full-time RNs and better health is clear,” said RNAO president Joan Lesmond. “This government recognizes that, and has responded with targeted funding that is beginning to bridge some of the gap between where we are today – 59 per cent of Ontario’s nurses working full time – and where we must be – 70 per cent – if nurses are to give people the care they need, and if the government is to meet its 2003 campaign promise.”
RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun said the percentage of RNs working full time dipped to 50 per cent in 1998, prompting the association to push for an end to the dangerous overreliance on part-time and casual nursing. Since then, RNAO has called on government and health-care employers to create a nursing workforce in which 70 per cent of all RNs work full time. The Liberal party committed itself to that goal during the 2003 election campaign, and early in its mandate the McGuinty government announced a number of policies to increase full-time nursing employment. RNAO’s survey and analysis evaluates the initial implementation of those policies to see whether or how well they are working.
Grinspun said the survey results tell several stories, including:
- During the first year of implementation, employers reported new full-time positions in the hospital, home care and long-term care sectors that equate to a 4.8 per cent increase. Applied provincially, this increase results in 1,408 new full-time registered nursing positions created as of January 2005.
- Increases in new full-time RN positions varied by sector. The hospital sector saw a 2 per cent increase as a share of total employment; 2.3 per cent in home care; and 2.8 per cent in long-term care. The increase across sectors as a share of total employment is 2.1 per cent.
- The biggest gains in full-time RN employment were in the hospital sector, the sector with the strongest accountability requirements. The bulk of the new positions (1,098) were in hospitals, which exceeded the target of 800 new full-time nursing positions the government set when it invested $50 million in full-time hospital nursing positions. Progress in full-time RN employment wasn’t as strong in other sectors where conditions for funding weren’t as stringent.
- The report projects that almost a quarter (24.5 per cent) of part-time and casual RNs wanted full-time employment. If all RNs were to get their preferred employment status, the percentage of Ontario RNs working full time would rise to 64.5 per cent.
- Many more RNs are prepared to work full time, 42.1 per cent of part-time RN respondents and 23.4 per cent of casual RN respondents, but only if their employment contracts or work environments improve. If these conditions were met and these respondents were offered full-time work, the percentage of RNs working full time could reach 78.4 per cent. If 40 per cent of this group of RNs elected to work full time, we would reach the goal of 70 per cent of all Ontario RNs working full time.
- Employers with plans to reach 70 per cent full-time RN employment were more likely to increase full-time positions than those who didn’t.
“Are the government’s efforts to increase full-time employment for Ontario RNs paying off? Yes. Are they enough to meet the government’s goal of having 70 per cent of registered nurses working full time by 2007? No,” says Grinspun. “The results show we’re heading in the right direction and that targeted funding has paid off, but it also reveals areas for additional action that will help us get to 70 per cent – and to better patient care – more quickly,” said Grinspun.
Lesmond said full-time employment opportunities are key to keeping new graduates and novice nurses in Ontario – and the country. Just ask RN Victoria Wagner, who begins a full-time job today at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. After almost a year of working on a part-time and casual basis for multiple employers, she was about to give up on Ontario, and head to the United States or Australia for full-time work. That prospect was especially frustrating for Wagner because she faced the same situation after graduating in 2002. Unable to find full-time work here, she moved to the United States and into a full-time job in 2003, but returned to Ontario last summer in the hopes of landing one of the full-time positions she had heard were available.
“I love nursing, and I am very pleased that I can finally do it full time in Ontario,” said Wagner. “It’s taken a lot of time and tenacity to secure full-time work, and I hope other RNs don’t face the same barriers as I did. Having full-time work makes such a positive difference to my practice, my profession, and to my patients,” she said.
The RNAO report includes key recommendations for government and employers, including: increase targeted funding for full-time RN positions; require that all sectors have stringent conditions attached to that funding; accelerate delivery of funding to create the 8,000 new nursing positions the government promised by 2007; and offer working schedules that accommodate the unique needs of senior and novice nurses.
Download the report here [PDF - 11 MB]
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.