The Truth About the Nursing Job Market

Don’t let misinformation sway your decision to become a nurse.

Nursing job news is often loaded with mixed messages. You’ll hear from some that it is a tough job market. From others you’ll hear that certain sectors are understaffed. Can you believe what you’re told? Here we address a few of the facts and projections for the nursing job market.

What is the state of the nursing labour market?

In the early 1990s, most provinces and territories were not hiring nurses. Two decades later, Canada is facing a growing nursing shortage, largely because of an aging nursing workforce. Even if lots of new nurses are trained, it will be very difficult to offset the large number of nursing retirements that are anticipated.

What will the nursing job market in Ontario look like in 2020?

If no policy interventions are implemented, Canada will be short almost 60,000 full-time equivalent RNs in 2022, according to the Canadian Nurses Association.

If policies are enacted to tackle the shortage, it’s very likely that not only will fewer students be turned away from nursing school, but that nursing will enjoy expanding roles. This will mean yet greater, exciting career avenues for nurses in Ontario.

There are signs we are headed in the right direction. According to a 2010 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the number of working registered nurses (RNs) jumped by 9 percent, or 27,000, in the previous five years. The total nursing workforce is now more than 348,000. Unfortunately, the rate of RN growth is still lagging.

What does a predicted nursing shortage mean for me?

While a nursing shortage is not a forgone conclusion, chances are there will be more jobs available in coming years, with increasing opportunities to work in diverse regions of Ontario and more community-based care centres. With increasing policy attention focused on improving the situation, almost 70 percent of RNs are now employed full-time in Ontario, which improves the quality of patient care and on-the-job satisfaction. Initiatives such as the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s The 70 Per Cent Solution are helping to ensure better nursing retention rates.

Another example is the Nursing Retention Fund (NRF), an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Ontario Nurses’ Association, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, and the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario. The NRF provides funds to public hospitals in Ontario for education and training as retention initiatives when changes to hospital services might otherwise result in nursing layoffs.

What are job prospects like?

According to the Government of Canada, job prospects for nurses are good. Sources of employment will open up in coming years mainly through retirement of nurses, and to a lesser degree, from job creation. Some career opportunities will result from promotions; less so from others turning to university or college teaching positions. That being said, increased demand for RNs will not always translate into new jobs, according to the government. Part of the demand will mean in an increase in the number of hours of work, including more full-time work.

Is nursing recession-proof?

It should be. In fact, the general public gets sicker during a recession (a result of increased unemployment, homelessness and other negative health consequences associated to employment and education). And when people are ill (or need extra help to staying well on a lower income) — they need a nurse.

Why can’t some new nurses find jobs?

Before the latest recession (2007 to 2009), there was very high demand for new grads. After the recession, nurses that were expected to retire chose to continue to work for a few more years, leaving fewer positions available. This does not mean that today’s new grads will not get jobs. However, they may not automatically get a job in their area of choice, and they will find they are now competing with each other in an interview like most other candidates do in other job sectors.

Because today’s nursing graduates need to consider areas beyond “their favourite” and learn to differentiate themselves from other new grads, they are gaining career skills such as adaptability and flexibility, which will serve them well in years to come. So new nurses are getting jobs, it’s just taking more effort on their part, and more time.

Why are some people being turned away from nursing school when there are looming shortages?

A university in Ontario cannot accept more students than the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities (MTCU) funds them for. The other reason some people are turned away is that there is a shortage of nursing faculty (PhD in nursing) that can teach at the university level. Universities can’t open seats if they don’t have faculty. So if you’ve ever had the desire to enter nursing academia, give it some serious thought!

Nursing job news is often loaded with mixed messages. You’ll hear from some that it is a tough job market. From others you’ll hear that certain sectors are understaffed. Can you believe what you’re told? Here we address a few of the facts and projections for the nursing job market.

What is the state of the nursing labour market?

In the early 1990s, most provinces and territories were not hiring nurses. Two decades later, Canada is facing a growing nursing shortage, largely because of an aging nursing workforce. Even if lots of new nurses are trained, it will be very difficult to offset the large number of nursing retirements that are anticipated.

What will the nursing job market in Ontario look like in 2020?

If no policy interventions are implemented, Canada will be short almost 60,000 full-time equivalent RNs in 2022, according to the Canadian Nurses Association.

If policies are enacted to tackle the shortage, it’s very likely that not only will fewer students be turned away from nursing school, but that nursing will enjoy expanding roles. This will mean yet greater, exciting career avenues for nurses in Ontario.

There are signs we are headed in the right direction. According to a 2010 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the number of working registered nurses (RNs) jumped by 9 percent, or 27,000, in the previous five years. The total nursing workforce is now more than 348,000. Unfortunately, the rate of RN growth is still lagging.

What does a predicted nursing shortage mean for me?

While a nursing shortage is not a forgone conclusion, chances are there will be more jobs available in coming years, with increasing opportunities to work in diverse regions of Ontario and more community-based care centres. With increasing policy attention focused on improving the situation, almost 70 percent of RNs are now employed full-time in Ontario, which improves the quality of patient care and on-the-job satisfaction. Initiatives such as the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s The 70 Per Cent Solution are helping to ensure better nursing retention rates. Another example is the Nursing Retention Fund (NRF), an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term CareOntario Nurses’ Association, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, and the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario. The NRF provides funds to public hospitals in Ontario for education and training as retention initiatives when changes to hospital services might otherwise result in nursing layoffs.

What are job prospects like?

According to the Government of Canada, job prospects for nurses are good. Sources of employment will open up in coming years mainly through retirement of nurses, and to a lesser degree, from job creation. Some career opportunities will result from promotions; less so from others turning to university or college teaching positions. That being said, increased demand for RNs will not always translate into new jobs, according to the government. Part of the demand will mean in an increase in the number of hours of work, including more full-time work.

Is nursing recession-proof?

It should be. In fact, the general public gets sicker during a recession (a result of increased unemployment, homelessness and other negative health consequences associated to employment and education). And when people are ill (or need extra help to staying well on a lower income) — they need a nurse.

Why can’t some new nurses find jobs?

Before the latest recession (2007 to 2009), there was very high demand for new grads. After the recession, nurses that were expected to retire chose to continue to work for a few more years, leaving fewer positions available. This does not mean that today’s new grads will not get jobs. However, they may not automatically get a job in their area of choice, and they will find they are now competing with each other in an interview like most other candidates do in other job sectors.

Because today’s nursing graduates need to consider areas beyond “their favourite” and learn to differentiate themselves from other new grads, they are gaining career skills such as adaptability and flexibility, which will serve them well in years to come. So new nurses are getting jobs, it’s just taking more effort on their part, and more time.

Why are some people being turned away from nursing school when there are looming shortages?

A university in Ontario cannot accept more students than the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities (MTCU) funds them for. The other reason some people are turned away is that there is a shortage of nursing faculty (PhD in nursing) that can teach at the university level. Universities can’t open seats if they don’t have faculty. So if you’ve ever had the desire to enter nursing academia, give it some serious thought!

Source: Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario

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