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8 thought-provoking facts about Canadian nursing today

Canadians have nothing but praise and respect for our seemingly indefatigable nurses. They are the lifeblood of our hospitals, clinics and care homes. They are the compassionate and hard-working people who take care of us in our time of need. But what do we really know about their profession and their working conditions? Read on for some unique facts and statistics about nursing in Canada today.

  1. Total numbers of working regulated nurses in Canada.
    As of 2019, there were 439,975 regulated nurses practicing in Canada. Included in this number are 300,669 registered nurses (RNs), 6,159 nurse practitioners (NPs), 6,050 registered psychiatric nurses and 127,097 licensed practical nurses or registered practical nurses (LPNs or RPNs). (1)
  2. When asked to rate the most trustworthy of people in various professions in an Insights West Poll, Canadians ranked nurses and firefighters at the top!
    A cross-Canada Insights West Poll revealed that firefighters and nurses are the most respected professionals by more than nine-in-ten Canadians! To compare, other results revealed that Canadians also maintain positive views on farmers (88%), doctors (87%), teachers (86%), and scientists (84%), amongst others. 
  3. Male versus Female?
    In 2019, about 91% of regulated nurses working in Canada were female and it continues to be a female-dominated profession. However, over the past 5 years, the supply of male regulated nurses has grown quickly (estimated increase of 15.4%) more than female nurses (3.9%). The proportion of male nurses in the workforce is estimated to be 19% of RPNs and 9% of other regulated nursing professionals, so a smaller proportion of the nursing workforce. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) notes that it does not collect data on gender, therefore it does not have statistics regarding nurses’ gender expressions. (2)
  4. More than 4 times as many nurses than physicians are working in the Canadian health care system.
    Nurses form the largest group of regulated health professionals in Canada. Indeed, there are more than four times as many regulated nurses working in this country than there are physicians. For example, in 2019, there were 91,375 doctors, representing 241 physicians per every 100,000 Canadians. (3)
  5. Average Age of Working Nurses?
    Recently, the regulated nursing workforce employed in direct patient care is trending a bit younger. Statistically, since 2010, the percentage of nurses 35 years old or younger has increased by 7.5 per cent; meanwhile, the percentage of nurses older than 55 years has decreased by 3.2 per cent. The majority of regulated nurses, across all nurse categories (48 per cent), are between the ages of 35-54, considered to be mid-career. Trending on the older scale is registered psychiatric nurses; they have the greatest percentage of members in the late career stage (25.8 per cent). (4)
  6. Nurses have to walk a lot!
    On average, nurses walk approximately five kilometres on a 12-hour shift! 
  7. Nurses are more likely to suffer violence or abuse during their shift.
    Health care providers are subject to a particularly high risk of workplace violence. According to Statistics Canada, among regulated nurses working in hospitals or long-term care homes, 34% reported physical assault from a patient over the past year, and 47% reported emotional abuse. Evidence from several studies concluded that on-the-job abuse resulted in a number of negative outcomes with nurses being most at risk; suffering from anger, fear, depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, increased sick leave, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and job dissatisfaction. Among those who reported abuse, nurses were more likely to say they wanted to leave their jobs or the nursing profession altogether. (5)
  8. According to a Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) report, Canada will be short almost 60,000 full-time equivalent Registered Nurses by 2022!
    A shortage of nurses in Canada is an ongoing issue and some of the factors that affect it include an aging population, a substantial number of RNs that are 50 years old or over, and problems in the workplace. Problems cited by Canadians nurses include workload, overtime, scheduling, abuse and violence. These issues are driving some currently practicing nurses out of the profession.


(1) Canadian Nurses Association; Statistics Canada

(2) The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Canadian Nurses Association, Statistics Canada

(3) Canadian Nurses Association; Statistics Canada

(4) Canadian Nurses Association; Statistics Canada

(5) Statistics Canada; Canadian Nurses Association


Canadian Nurses Association and their websites: https://cna-aiic.ca/en and https://mycna.ca/en 

Insights West www.insightswest.com

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). CIHI is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health system and the health of Canadians.

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