Number of new nursing licenses falls to lowest level in 10 years

(Montreal) The number of new nursing licenses issued in Quebec has decreased for a third consecutive year, reaching its lowest level in 10 years, as the province struggles to fill positions in its health establishments.

The Order of Nurses of Quebec claims to have granted 2,864 permits between April 2022 and March 2023. In comparison, a year earlier, during the same 12-month period, 3,565 new permits were registered, or 20% more . The Order had issued 3,629 in the previous 12 months and 4,183 in 2019-20.

The professional order nevertheless reported an increase in its total number of members – from 79,748 in March 2022 to 83,418 a year later – continuing a strong upward trend. But only 92.6% of its members worked in Quebec, the lowest proportion in the last ten years.

In a press release Thursday, the organization also highlighted a 20% increase in the number of specialist nurse practitioners, nurses with advanced degrees who exercise additional powers, including that of prescribing treatments. There were 1,314 nurse practitioners in Quebec in March 2023, compared to 1,097 in 2022 and 842 in 2021. Their number has increased by 134% since 2019.

The Interprofessional Health Federation (FIQ), which represents the majority of nurses in Quebec, described the decline in the granting of permits by the Order in the current context as “very worrying”.

“We need to significantly improve the working conditions of healthcare professionals to attract them” into the public network, the union indicates in an email.

“Care professionals are an extremely valuable resource, but the government does not make them a priority. This is very disappointing and frustrating for the members of the FIQ, who hold the health network at arm’s length, and for patients. »

The FIQ, unlike several teaching unions, has not yet concluded a proposed settlement with the government. However, on December 19, she obtained the appointment of a conciliator from the Ministry of Labor.

The Quebec workforce data, released Thursday, comes amid difficult negotiations between the government and the province’s largest nurses’ union, and as health care facilities grapple with a shortage of staff.

The Quebec statistics agency says nursing was one of the most staff-intensive professions in the third quarter of 2023, with more than 10,400 vacancies for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses.

At the same time, healthcare waiting lists and emergency room wait times have continued to increase in recent years. In Quebec, at the start of December 2023, there were 164,168 people waiting for non-cardiac surgery, up from 129,371 in December 2020.

In emergency rooms, the seven-day average wait time to see a doctor after triage was 3.14 hours on January 8, 2024, compared to 1.82 hours two years earlier.

The professional order’s report does not suggest possible reasons for the decline in new nursing licenses, and the organization declined to provide further details when contacted by The Canadian Press on Friday.

The Order said in an email that it was developing an action plan with the Quebec government to increase the number of qualified nurses in the province by 2024, but declined to provide further details. The Order, however, “hopes” that the number of new permits will increase over the coming year.

The Quebec Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment on Friday

In an interview, Canadian Nurses Association CEO Tim Guest said he didn’t know why Quebec was issuing fewer licenses. But he admitted the decline was not surprising given the national shortage of nurses, caused by what he described as dissatisfaction with working conditions in the profession, such as excessive numbers of nurses. ‘overtime.

Mr. Guest said he was not aware of comparable declines in other provinces, but he has heard of nursing schools having difficulty recruiting students.


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