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ARCHIVED - Nursing Issues: General Statistics

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Office of Nursing Policy
Health Canada
November 2006
ISBN: 978-0-662-44715-3 (PDF Version)
Cat. No.: H21-281/6-2006E

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Introduction

This fact sheet examines the following general statistics concerning nursing: numbers of nurses; where nurses are employed; age of nurses; the number of nurse educators. These issues are examined pertaining to:

  • Registered Nurses (RN, Reg.N.). RNs (inclusive of Nurse Practitioners) represent the largest regulated health care provider group in Canada. Registered nurses must complete a nursing program either at a baccalaureate or diploma level and register with their respective provincial or territorial nursing regulatory body which permits them to perform the authorized functions of a registered nurse. All provinces and territories have RNs, who work in a variety of settings.
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN). LPNs are the second-largest regulated health profession in Canada. Prior to 1945, "auxiliary workers", as they were known, were employed and trained on the job to meet nursing service needs in hospitals and nursing homes. LPNs now receive theoretical and clinical education in one to two-year community college programs. Like RNs, all provinces and territories have LPNs, who work in a variety of settings.1 In Ontario they are called Registered Practical Nurses. (Please see note in next paragraph)
  • Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPN). RPNs represent the largest single group of mental health professionals found in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia where they are a separate regulated health profession. (Note: LPNs in Ontario are called Registered Practical Nurses and the acronym should not be confused with Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) in the four western provinces). RPNs must complete an education program either at the diploma or baccalaureate level.

Numbers of Nurses

Registered Nurses

After strong growth in the 1980s, the number of RNs employed in nursing declined in the mid-1990s and has remained stable since that time. Between 2004 and 2005, the number of registrations increased in all of Canada's provinces.2

The number of RNs employed in registered nursing increased by 8.7% between 2001 and 2005, from 231,512 to 251,673. Much of this increase is due to methodological enhancements applied to Qubec and Ontario in 2003.

Number of Registered Nurses, Canada, 1999 - 2003
  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Employed in Nursing 231,512 230,957 241,342 246,575 251,675
Employed in Other Than Nursing 5,921 5,392 4,880 5,036 5,030
Not Employed 7,237 7,803 8,497 9,169 8,912
Not Stated 8,227 10,600 3,674 2,561 2,759
Total RNs in Canada 252,897 254,752 258,393 260,762 265,617
Percent Employed in Nursing 91.5 90.7 93.4 94.5 94.8

The number of RNs employed in nursing in Canada increased by 8.7% between 2001 and 2005, although much of this increase is due to methodological improvements in the data for Ontario and Qubec. All of the provinces and territories experienced growth between 2001 and 2005. Alberta experienced substantial growth, with an increase of 15.0% in the number of RNs employed in nursing. Other provinces and territories experiencing significant increases were Prince Edward Island (13.6%), Ontario (11.0%), and the Yukon Territory (10.6%).

In 2005, 82.9% of the RN workforce (excluding Quebec) lived in urban areas of Canada, ranging from a high of 89.5% in British Columbia to a low of 60.0% in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.3

Licensed Practical Nurses

Between 2004 and 20054, the number of LPNs employed in practical nursing rose from 63,443 to 64,951, an increase of 2.4%. The increase in the number of LPNs employed in practical nursing was not uniform across the country. Alberta experienced the most substantial growth between 2003 and 2005, with an increase of 11.5%, followed by British Columbia (11.2%), Qubec (9.9%), New Brunswick (8.4%), Manitoba (7.2%), Saskatchewan (6.7%), Nova Scotia (3.5%), and Northwest Territories (3.1%). (The number of registrations submitted by employed and unemployed LPNs increased by more than 6% in all four western provinces, and methodological improvements were made in data collection.)

In 2005, 73.0% of the LPN workforce lived in urban areas of Canada. 79.6% of LPNs in Ontario work in cities with populations greater than 100,000. The 14.5% who live in rural areas includes 3.4% commuting to the largest cities, 4.4% working in mid-sized cities, and 6.8% remaining in rural areas to work.5

Registered Psychiatric Nurses

Number of Registered Psychiatric Nurses, Canada, 2004 - 2005
  2004 2005
Employed in Psychiatric Nursing 5,121 4,964
Not employed in psychiatric nursing 17 *6
Not stated 116 **7
Total RPNs in Canada 5,254 5,027
Percent employed in psychiatric nursing 97.5% 98.7%

In 2005, there were 4,964 RPNs employed in psychiatric nursing in Canada, a decrease of 2.8% from 5,107 in 2003. Just under 40% (39.4%) of the national RPN workforce worked in British Columbia.8

In 2005, 55.3% of the RPN workforce lived in urban areas of Canada, ranging from a high of 95.5% in British Columbia to a low of 66.9% in Alberta.

Where Nurses Are Employed

Registered Nurses

The percentage of RNs employed in hospitals remained stable over the past five years (63%). The proportion of RNs employed in the community health sector increased slightly from 13.1% in 2001 to 13.3% in 2005. Employment in the nursing home/long-term care sector also increased from 10.9% in 2001 to 11.5% in 2005.

RNs working in hospitals are, on average, younger (43.2 years) than RNs working in community health (46.2 years) or nursing homes and long-term care (47.6 years).

In 2005, 55.3% of RNs employed in hospitals worked full-time, 33.3% part-time and 10.1% were employed casually. Of those RNs employed in community health, 55.4% worked full-time, 28.4% part-time and 13.8% casual. In nursing homes and long-term care, 49.0% of RNs were employed full-time, 37.8% part-time and 11.8% casual.

RNs early in their careers are more likely to work in hospitals than RNs who graduated more than 20 years ago. While hospitals remain the most common employer for all RNs, those approaching the end of their careers are just as likely to work in other sectors.9

Licensed Practical Nurses

The percentage age distribution for LPNs employed in practical nursing places of work tends to vary throughout Canada. For example, 39.0% of Qubec LPNs work in hospitals, while 51.3% work in nursing homes/long-term care. By contrast, 64.2% of Saskatchewan's LPNs are employed in the hospital sector, with only 19.6% of the workforce employed in the nursing home/long-term care sector. Among the current workforce, hospital employment rates range between 40%-50% for LPNs in all stages of their careers, but is highest for LPNs 26-35 years after graduation.10

Registered Psychiatric Nurse

On average in 2005, 40.6% of RPNs worked in hospitals, 23.2% in community health, 21.8% in nursing homes, and 13.5% in other settings. Concentrations of RPNs employment varied widely across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.11

Age of Nurses

Registered Nurses

Distribution of RNS by Age Group, Canada, 2004
Age Cohort 2004
< 35 years 354
35 - 39 years 347
40 - 44 years 494
45 - 49 years 592
50 - 54 years 661
55 - 59 years 467
60 - 64 years 213
> 65 43

Canada is experiencing a significant shift in the age of its RN workforce. The numbers of RNs under age 45 continues to decline while the numbers age 45 and older continues to increase.

In 2005, Canada had more RNs employed in nursing at age 50-54 than any other age group. The average age of RNs employed in nursing increased by 1.0 years between 2001 and 2005, from 43.7 to 44.7.12 There are more nurses over the age of 50 than under age 35 in every province and territory except Newfoundland and Labrador.

Licensed Practical Nurses

Canada's LPN workforce is also aging. While the distribution of LPNs across Canada varies widely by age, nonetheless each jurisdiction has a greater percentage of LPNs over the age of 50 than under age 35. For every LPN under 35, there are 1.7 LPNs age 50 or older. The average age of LPNs employed in practical nursing in Canada decreased by 0.1 years between 2004 and 2005, from 44.4 to 44.3 years.13

Registered Psychiatric Nurses

In 2005, at 47.0 years, the average age of RPNs across the four western provinces is higher than that of either RNs or LPNs; this is an increase of 0.4 years from 2004. The distribution by age of RPNs varies greatly across the western provinces. RPNs in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are generally younger than those in the other western provinces at an average age of 46.5 years. However, Saskatchewan also had the greatest increase in average age over the past year. In contrast, the RPN workforce in British Columbia is 0.6 years older on average, but had a smaller increased age over the past year.14

Numbers of Nurse Educators

In 2005, more than 400 faculty members were recruited, but projections showed an additional 500 faculty vacancies in 2005.15

Despite a slight decline between 2002 and 2003, the number of nurse educators has increased across Canada.

Substantially more nurse educators had graduate degrees in 2004 than in 2001. The majority of this increase took place at the Master's level, whereas the doctoral level saw a sharp increase followed by a slight decline.

Highest Level of Education of Faculty Members In Canadian Schools of Nursing, 2001-200416
Highest Level of Education 2001 2002 2003 2004
Total 3742 3351 3820 3898
Post Doctoral in Nursing 21 21 44 32
Post Doctoral in Other Discipline 18 15 44 20
Doctoral in Nursing 163 221 272 259
Doctoral in Other Discipline 284 251 290 311
Master's in Nursing 976 812 996 1056
Master's in Other Discipline 715 822 627 694
Nurse Practitioner 59 55 69 74
Baccalaureate in Nursing 1361 1177 1224 1240
Baccalaureate in Other Discipline 101 75 94 84
No Degree 44 95    
Not Stated   6 160 128
Graduates from Nursing Master's and Doctoral Programs in Canada, 2000-200417
Graduates 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Master's 218 303 336 434 418
Doctoral 10 20 18 31 25

In 2004, 850 students were admitted to Master's programs; this is double the number seen in 2000. In addition, 76 students were admitted to Doctoral programs in 2004, which is a 17% increase from 2003.

Endnotes

1. Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Licensed Practical Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Licensed Practical Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 36.

2. CIHI. Registered Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Registered Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 3.

3. CIHI. Registered Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Registered Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 12.

4. CIHI. Licensed Practical Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Licensed Practical Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 10-11.

5. CIHI. Licensed Practical Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Licensed Practical Nurses in Canada, 2005, p.10-11.

6. Value suppressed in accordance with CIHI privacy policy; cell value is from 1-4

7. Value suppressed to ensure confidentiality; cell value is 5 or greater.

8. CIHI. Registered Psychiatric Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Registered Psychiatric Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 3.

9. Registered Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Registered Psychiatric Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 33-34.

10. Licensed Practical Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Licensed Practical Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 24-25.

11. Registered Psychiatric Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Registered Psychiatric Nurses in Canada, 2005, p. 23-24.

12. Registered Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Registered Nurses in Canada, 2005, pp.16-17.

13. Licensed Practical Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Licensed dPractical Nurses in Canada, 2005, pp.14-15.

14. Registered Psychiatric Nurses Database: Workforce Trends of Registered Psychiatric Nurses in Canada, 2005, p.17-18.

15. Data is from Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, National Student and Faculty Survey of Canadian Schools of Nursing, 2004 - 2005. Data for the 2005 - 2006 survey will not be released until the spring of 2007.

16. Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. "Table 6: Highest Level of Education of Faculty Members, Canadian Schools of Nursing, 2001-2004," National Student and Faculty Survey of Canadian Schools of Nursing, 2004-2005.

17. CASN, Adaption of "Table 5: Degree Programs in Canadian Schools of Nursing, 2004 - 2005: Admissions, Enrolment and Graduates by Type of Nursing Program," National Student and Faculty Survey of Canadian Schools of Nursing, 2004 - 2005.