Canada’s provinces are likely to focus on more immigrant nursing professionals even as the country stares at a sharp mismatch between risking nursing job vacancies and stagnant employment in the sector.

Where are the Nursing Professionals in Canada?

A 2017 report by Employment and Social Development Canada had predicted highest growth in employment in the nursing sector through the coming decade. As predicted, vacancies in the sector have been rising with a 77 per cent growth in nursing job vacancies between 2015 and 2019.

Yet, surprisingly, employment levels i.e. the number of persons employed in the sector have stagnated. Simply put, this means employers are keen on hiring more nurses but growth in number of nurses has not matched the rising demand among employers.

Factors Contributing to the Nursing Shortage

One key factor could be how wage growth for nurses has lagged as compared to other sectors of the Canadian economy for many years now. In 2011, a nursing professional in Canada earned 50 per cent more than an individual in a typical job in any other sector. This figure fallen to just 36 per cent in 2018.

Another statistic highlighting the wage-growth mismatch is the average hourly wage mismatch. The average hourly wage for all occupations in Canada is $27 per hour, as opposed to $37 per hour earned by nurses in Canada.

This is a significant mismatch considering the onerous duties that nurses perform and the high-stress environment in which they work.

Wage mismatch apart, the tough working conditions in the industry is putting off youngsters from taking up this noble professional. Even those who choose nursing prefer casual employment that offer greater work-life balance over permanent positions.

Further complicating the problem is the issue of burn out among experienced nurses. There has been a steady rise in number of experienced professionals opting for sick leaves, which contributes to further strain on already overworked nurses.

A Job Seeker’s Market Today

There’s no doubt that nursing has become a job-seeker’s market in Canada today. Average unemployment in the sector is hovering around one per cent compared to the national average of five per cent.

Employment openings and rising and such vacancies remain open for long periods before employers finally succeed in filling the same. Online recruitment sites confirm that adverts for nursing positions in 2016-17 received half as any clicks as a standard job advert by a Canadian employer.

Great Opportunity for Foreign Professionals

Considering the key role of the occupation and implications of shortage of nurses, it’s not surprising that Canadian provinces have already initiated steps to attract foreign professionals through their provincial nomination programs.

Many provinces have streams setup specifically for healthcare professionals. Now, provinces have begun adding NOC codes related to nursing and home support workers, with Ontario being the latest one, to their In-Demand Skills streams.

With employers focusing on measures like assigning more nurses to individual units, making working conditions less stressful, and increasing wages, foreign professionals stand to gain from the opportunity hidden in this growing crisis.

Canada’s Nursing Shortage Could Get Worse Before It Gets Better

TORONTO ― A new report from job search site Indeed says there’s a growing labour shortage in nursing nationwide that’s showing “no signs of easing.”

Indeed says nursing employment levels have plateaued in recent years, despite projections that forecast the opposite. In 2017, Employment and Social Development Canada predicted nursing employment growth would be among the highest of all occupations in the coming decade.

That hasn’t happened, and Indeed’s data suggests the number of nurses in Canada has flatlined in recent years, despite a 77-per-cent increase in nursing job vacancies since 2015.

“I think it’s generally just a sign of tougher hiring conditions in the nursing field,” Indeed economist Brendon Bernard told HuffPost Canada. “Not only are nursing openings up, but more of them are remaining vacant for long periods.”

The data suggests employers are struggling to recruit nurses in an environment where unemployment is often below one per cent, well below the national average of around five per cent, according to Indeed. An average nursing position received half as many clicks on Indeed as a typical job ad in 2016-2017, Bernard said.

“Indeed job posting and click data suggest job seeker interest in nursing roles is increasingly lagging demand,” Bernard wrote.

“Not every type of occupation has that type of demand,” he said. “It’s really a job-seeker’s market.”

Debbie Forward, president of the Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador, says there are plenty of nursing jobs available in her province, but new grads are reluctant to hop into roles where they might be overworked and under-appreciated.

“We might have vacancies in this province but our new grads aren’t taking the permanent vacant positions,” Forward said. “They’re choosing to work on a casual basis because they tell me that they’re not willing to work in areas with high workload and they can’t get time off when they want it.”

Forward says young nurses, in particular, don’t want to be “held captive to their employer” and stuck in situations where they’re working too many long hours and feeling defeated at the end of a long and gruelling shift.

“Young people coming into our profession are saying ‘I’m not willing to work like that,’” Forward said. “Right now, our members are leaving work defeated, they’re leaving work beaten down, and it’s driving up sick leave, it’s affecting morale, it’s increasing burnout, and those things are affecting the number of nurses and the shortage in our profession,” she continued.

“We have to make the profession attractive again.”

Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says nursing is a difficult job with lives at stake and that only gets more difficult as nurses are asked to do more with less.

“It isn’t a recruitment problem as much as it is a retention problem,” McKenna told HuffPost. “Enough attention is not being paid to nursing and that’s to the detriment of all of us.”

Nurses say there are some tangible ways to make the profession more attractive to young people, such as increasing their numbers in individual units.

“It starts with making sure that we have staffing levels that meet needs of patients so people feel confident,” Forward said. “The value starts in making sure we have them in the right numbers first and then we get into what is a fair compensation level for those individuals.”

Increasing wages is another potential solution for addressing the shortage.

“Wage growth for nurses has lagged the rest of the economy for a few years now,” Bernard said. “That’s one factor that’s contributing to the slowdown in job growth for nurses.”

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Indeed says nurses earned 48 per cent more than the typical job in 2011. Nowadays, they’re earning 36 per cent higher wages than average. Statistics Canada says the average hourly wage rate for nurses was $36.59 in 2018, whereas it was $26.92 for all occupations in Canada.