Volume 96, Issue 85
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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Canada's nursing shortage getting worse

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Despite Canada's current shortage of nurses, experts say many new nursing school applicants are being turned away.

The demand for nurses continues to exceed the number of seats at nursing schools, said Carroll Iwasiw, director of the school of nursing at Western. "It's alarming. If the current trend continues, we'll be short 110,000 nurses in Canada by 2011," she explained.

Iwasiw said it is imperative the federal government support an initiative to expand enrollment, otherwise the situation will only get worse.

In order to meet the current demand for nurses, the number of available seats at nursing schools needs to be increased by at least 25 per cent this year, and 20 per cent for each of the four subsequent years, said Rob Colnan, president of the Canadian Nurses Association.

Only 5,000 nurses graduated in 2000 compared to 9,000 in 1991, he said. According to Colnan, 10 per cent of the nurses who graduated during the past two years have left the country in order to find full-time employment, as well as to continue their education, while 20 per cent have dropped out of nursing all together.

"Every September we miss another opportunity to increase the number of people graduating as nurses – that's another year that goes by that the nursing shortage gets worse," he said.

According to Wendy McBride, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, simply adding seats in nursing schools is not going to be enough to resolve the current problem. "We can't just increase the number of seats. We need more classrooms, professors and clinical placements in order to deal with this problem," she said.

McBride said that unless graduating nurses are encouraged to further their education and consider pursuing masters and doctorate programs, there will not be enough new teachers to replace the existing professors who are approaching retirement.

Kendrah Allen, a third-year nursing student at Western, noted some effort has been made to expand the nursing program in order to meet the current demand. The recent development of a collaborative program between Western and Fanshawe College is one example, she explained, adding, "The collaborative program between Western and Fanshawe is creating a lot more seats for students."

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2002 THE GAZETTE