More nurses than ever before and yet less are in the workforce

Jun 23, 2023 | News

Recent figures from the College of Nursing of Ontario show more nurses are graduating and getting their certifications than ever before. But the data also shows more nurses than before are leaving Ontario or not working in the field.

A recent report from the College of Nursing of Ontario show more than 178,000 nurses renewed their registration with the college this year. This is in addition to those who are registered as non-practicing.

There are 158,000 nurses are part of the workforce in Ontario this year. The numbers are up by 140,000 since 2016.

At first glance, this is excellent news especially with the recent reports of hospitals being increasingly understaffed across the province.

However, the other side of the coin is that the number of nurses actively working has been declining since 2016.

“While the total number of nurses renewing their registration and the total number reporting employment in nursing in Ontario have grown each year, modest shifts in registration and employment trends since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have tempered further gains to the workforce,” the college said in its report.

The report shows the numbers are down to 88.9 per cent this year, compared to 91.2 per cent of nurses were actively working in Ontario in 2016.

The main reasons for the decline in working nurses in the province seem to be growing numbers of nurses working in nursing outside the province, or not joining the work force after graduation

Data from the college shows that over 9,800 nurses didn’t renew their registration this year which is 1,000 more than in 2022.

However, there was an increase of about 15,100 new nurses this year compared to last, most of them internationally educated.

Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association, said the government needs to focus on retaining nurses at all costs.

“The government has listened to some RNAO suggestions to ease a shortage of nurses, including adding nursing school capacity and speeding up registrations for internationally educated nurses,” Grinspun said.

However, this isn’t enough to retain the nurses already working in Ontario.

“Nurses need healthy work environments, including career development, safe workloads and competitive compensation,” Grinspun said.

The report comes at the tail end of a week of fighting in court to overturn bill 124 by nurses and nursing unions.

The bill was introduced by the Ford government in June 2019 and aimed to cap wage increases for public sector workers to one per cent per year for three years.

The bill took effect mostly during the pandemic which left much of the nursing workforce demoralized.