Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Aging nursing workforce requires continued government attention

Aging nursing workforce requires continued government attention

Toronto, Oct. 24, 2007 – A report on the country’s nursing workforce shows that continued attention will be required from governments to make sure there are enough nurses to care for all citizens. While both the number of RNs and the share working full-time have increased, the aging workforce requires continued efforts to recruit and retain nurses.

The report, compiled by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), indicates the average age of an RN in Ontario is 45.6, up from 45.1 in 2003. The same report also shows the number of Ontario RNs under the age of 35 increased by 1,209 over the same period (2003 to 2006), the number of RNs between 35 and 50 decreased by 542 and the number of RNs over the age of 50 increased by 4,207.

“We have fewer mid-career RNs in Ontario than we should, and that underscores the need to continue to attract young people to the profession and keep those who are already working,” says RNAO’s President Mary Ferguson-Pare, adding that this is the result of nurses being laid off by the thousands during the 1990s.

In the midst of a nursing shortage, Ferguson-Pare says the CIHI report shows demographic trends that demand a sustained and focused attention from government, employers and the profession. “We need to keep our experienced nurses working and encourage them to delay retirement. This will require the provincial government to keep its election commitment to invest in healthy work environments. RNAO says one way to achieve this is by offering nurses opportunities such as the 80/20 strategy so that they spend most of their week delivering patient care and some of their time mentoring new graduates or other professional activities,” says Ferguson-Pare.

RNAO says the numbers also suggest more people need to be encouraged to join the profession to fill vacancies in all sectors, as well as secure the future of patient care. Executive Director Doris Grinspun says it’s imperative to reach out to those graduating from high school because as nurses inevitably retire, a new generation will be needed to care for Ontarians. “The best way to reach out to them is by ensuring Ontario is a place where nurses can build a successful career and be guaranteed full-time work,” says Grinspun. “The government’s commitment to continue the New Graduate Guarantee is crucial to building the nursing workforce,” adds Grinspun.

RNAO is pleased that the share of RNs working full-time increased from 58.6 per cent in 2003 to 61.6 per cent in 2006 but more work needs to be done. “We’re still short of our goal of 70 per cent of RNs working full time and the government has committed to reach this target by 2010,” says Grinspun. “This is an essential target to meet to secure continuity of patient care and nurse satisfaction,” she adds.

RNAO is encouraged by the CIHI report and will continue to work with government, employers, nurses and the public to ensure Ontarians have the nursing care they deserve and need now, and in the future.

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.


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