Ontario has the worst RN-to-population ratio in Canada: Province must hire more RNs to end hallway nursing

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A portrait of the country’s nursing landscape shows Ontario doesn’t have enough RNs; something patients and families are all too familiar with given the reality of hallway nursing in hospitals across the province.

Figures released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that Ontario has the worst RN-to-population ratio in Canada. RNAO calculations based on CIHI figures show the province has only 669 RNs per 100,000 people compared to 828 RNs per 100,000 people across the rest of Canada.

RNAO President Angela Cooper Brathwaite says these numbers should serve as a wake-up call for people concerned about the state of their health-care system. “The needs of patients in acute and cancer care hospitals today are particularly complex and only RNs have the knowledge, competencies and judgment to ensure their needs are safely met. The drop in the number of RNs is putting patients at risk.”

Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO, says the numbers are even more alarming given the discussion around hallway nursing during the recent election campaign. “We urge premier–designate Doug Ford to address this issue and get top value for the taxpayer’s dollar. The research on RN effectiveness is conclusive. A greater proportion of RNs leads to improved patient satisfaction, lower mortality and morbidity rates, and lower health-system costs. The overall result of RN care is a more efficient and effective health system,” says Grinspun.

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RNAO says the CIHI figures reveal one bright spot. The number of nurse practitioners (NP) working in Ontario continues to grow. In 2017, there were 2,855 NPs in the province compared with 1,867 five years ago (2012). That’s an increase of 53 per cent. “This is good news for Ontarians, especially when you consider how many people still lack access to a primary care provider or to geriatric care in Ontario’s nursing homes,” says Grinspun. “NPs working in these and other sectors are improving timely access to quality care for patients.”

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on Facebook  and Twitter.