Increase in nurses outpaces population

The number of nurses in Canada increased faster than the population from 2009 to 2010, according to a new report.

The number of nurses in Canada increased faster than the population from 2009 to 2010, according to a new report.

The country's nursing workforce increased by two per cent during that time while the population increased by 1.1 per cent, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported Wednesday.

About 60 per cent of nurses in the provinces worked at hospitals. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

In 2010, there were 354,910 regulated nurses working in Canada, up  8.8 per cent since 2006 when there were 326,170. Of these, the bulk were registered nurses, 75.7 per cent. The rest were licensed practical nurses ( 22.9 per cent) or registered psychiatric nurses (1.5 per cent).

Nursing remains a female-dominated profession, with the proportion of women remaining at nearly 94 per cent, the report’s authors found.

A report from the Canadian Nursing Association a couple of years ago projected a growing shortage of nurses, but there are also nurses who cannot find full-time jobs.

"It's kind of a mixed bag of things," Canadian Nurses Association president Judith Shamian said from Ottawa. "You will find in most organizations a fair amount of vacancies, but they might not be desired positions."

Shamian said she often hears of new graduates working in maternity one day and in the emergency department the next, or at more than one institution, to pay their bills. That makes it more difficult to gain expertise in a discipline for a professional workforce, she noted.

Within Canada, the top three destinations for work for nursing graduates educated in Canada who moved away from where they graduated were British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

About 2.5 per cent of RNs (6,708) were not working in the province or territory where they were registered. Of these, 3, 218 or 48.0 per cent were employed in the United States.

Overall, in 2010, 7.3 per cent of the nursing workforce was educated outside of Canada.

There were 268,512 RNs working in Canada in 2010.

Also on Wednesday, the Canadian Nursing Students' Association said it encouraged nursing students to continue to practise in this country.

In 2009, Canada had one of the highest numbers of practising nurses per 1,000 population among selected countries. The country's vast geography may influence the distribution of and demand for health-care providers, the report's authors noted.

With files from The Canadian Press