Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Newsroom

RNAO says aging RN workforce presents a challenge for governments

2006-10-18

Toronto, Oct. 18, 2006 – Evidence of an aging RN workforce provides another warning sign to the federal and provincial governments, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) said today in response to the release of a report by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI).

The report, called Workforce Trends of Registered Nurses in Canada, 2005, reveals the share of Ontario’s RNs over the age of 50 increased by almost six percentage points from 32.8 to 38.6 per cent between 2001 and 2005.  The report also provides details on the number of registered nurses that are eligible to retire. Fully 21.3 per cent of RNs working in the province were eligible to retire in 2005.  The average age of Ontario nurses also increased, from 45.1 years in 2004 to 45.2 in 2005 with the provincial figure slightly higher than the national average of 44.7 years.

RNAO president Mary Ferguson-Paré says the statistics underscore the need for revitalized policies to keep RNs working in Ontario and right across Canada. “We’re pleased with the Ontario government’s promise to offer full-time employment to new nursing graduates. No doubt this will help build a younger nursing workforce At the same time, it is imperative that we honour the knowledge of our experienced RNs by building programs to ease their workload and allow them to share their expertise with novice colleagues. RNAO calls for the immediate implementation of the 80/20 strategy, across all sectors, so that the tradition of excellent patient care is passed from generation to generation,” adds Ferguson-Paré.

The strategy, currently in place in some Ontario hospitals, provides nurses, aged 55 and over, with an opportunity to spend 80 per cent of their time in direct patient care and 20 per cent on research, education and other professional development activities – especially mentoring new grads.

RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun says targeted investment in all health-care sectors to increase full-time employment to 70 per cent, as promised by Ontario’s Liberal government, side by side with the 80/20 solution would go a long way to stave off nursing shortages and the loss of expertise. A nursing shortage is not a foregone conclusion. There is much we can and must do to prevent such a crisis,” adds Grinspun.
 
Although the data clearly illustrates the Ontario government still has work to do with respect to the nursing file, there are some noteworthy improvements, says Grinspun. For example, RN employment in Ontario increased by almost four per cent between 2004 and 2005 from 86,099 to 89,429.  At the same time, the share of RNs working full-time rose to 60 per cent. Together, this amounts to a good news story,” she adds.

RNAO is carefully monitoring the increase in the percentage of internationally educated nurses. “While Ontario has always been a magnet for nurses who enter Canada, we must ensure that we are not poaching health resources from countries that need them more” says Ferguson-Paré. “We welcome new immigrants and value their breadth of experience and unique perspective.  However, we would vigorously oppose poaching. This would be both morally wrong and the wrong policy for resolving the nursing shortage in Ontario” she adds, pointing to the increase from 11.5 to 11.9 per cent in internationally educated nurses.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practice 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.

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For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605
mzych@rnao.org

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