Alberta gained 2,697 more nurses between 2009 and 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
The report looked at the numbers, employment rates and demographic characteristics of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses in Canada.
Although the Alberta increase sounds encouraging, Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta says the province is still playing catch-up and needs more.
“Ideal safety, patient safety? I would say we could utilize another 2,500 registered nurses,” she said.
And despite all these new nursing positions, graduates are still having difficulty finding full-time positions.
The CIHI report says new registered nurses can take as long as five years to land a full-time job. Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, can wait twice as long.
“We haven't seen that mass retirement,” said Paul Sajan, manager of health workforce information with CIHI.
“Good news for patients in that we still have our most experienced nurses, but for new nursing graduates it can make it a little bit difficult to find full-time work.”
Sajan says full time rates are lower in Alberta than anywhere else in the country, something that hasn’t changed over the five years.
About 40 per cent of Alberta RNs work full time, compared to 60 per cent nationally. For LPNs, 43 per cent of the Alberta workforce have full-time employment compared to 49 per cent nationally.
Sajan says the report doesn’t examine the reasons for the discrepancy.
About 25 per cent of all LPNs work in long-term care homes. With more baby boomers heading into their retirement years, the number of LPNs are expected to increase with the growth in long-term care facilities.