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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis

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CNA report offers recommendations to prevent expected nursing shortage

20 May 2009

The Canadian Nurses Association is predicting Canada's health system will be short 60,000 registered nurses over the next 15 years, unless urgent action is taken.

A report commissioned by the group, on which CHEPA member Stephen Birch was a co-author, recommends instituting a series of policy measures that could help alleviate the predicted shortage.

Tested Solutions for Eliminating Canada’s Registered Nurses Shortage, the third in a series of reports on the nursing shortage, presents a picture of the supply of and requirement for RNs in direct/clinical care (excluding nurse practitioners) in Canada over 15 years. It shows how several policy options were tested to determine their ability to address the projected shortfall.

Among the report’s findings are:

• Increasing productivity by just one per cent per year (non-cumulative) would reduce the shortage by close to half by 2022;
• Reducing absenteeism by half over three years would be the equivalent of adding 7,000 full-time nurses to the work pool. Nurses currently take an average of 14 sick days a year;
• Improving retention of practising nurses has the potential to add thousands of nurses to the system. A large number of nurses leave the profession at a young age, and getting more of them to hang on until retirement age could add the equivalent of 30,000 nurses;
• Adding 1,000 new spots in nursing schools annually for the next three years would add 15,000 nurses by 2022;
• Reducing attrition rates in nursing education programs by about half would produce about 15,000 nurses. Currently, 28 percent of nursing students don't complete their schooling;

The report contains a series of recommendations for governments, employers, unions, educational organizations and professional associations to work towards implementing measures to address the findings and reduce or eliminate the predicted shortage.

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