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Demand for Nursing Services Challenging to Meet as Canada’s Population Ages

Ottawa, March 14, 2017—The regulated nursing workforce in Canada will have an increasingly difficult time supporting the continuing care needs of seniors. According to a new Conference Board of Canada report, demand for nursing services is expected to increase at a much stronger pace than the supply of nurses as Canada’s population ages.

“Canada’s aging population will cause a dramatic rise in demand for continuing care and services provided by regulated nurses are an important component of that,” said Louis Thériault, Vice-President, Public Policy, The Conference of Canada. “Addressing the labour demands for nursing will be essential for Canada to successfully meet the care needs of its seniors.”


  • Demand for nursing services is expected to increase sharply as Canada’s population ages.
  • Overall demand for nursing in providing continuing care to seniors will increase annually by 3.4 per cent.
  • Better nursing workforce data and research for continuing care is required to meet enhanced community and home care health system reforms.

As providers of acute, chronic, rehabilitative, and palliative care, regulated nurses are at the front line of care and support for seniors. Nurses provide direct clinical care in homes and in long-term care homes. They also provide a number of other services and supports including case management, care coordination, supervision, education, as well as administrative within the continuing care spectrum. Currently, over 1.4 million Canadian seniors need and receive paid and unpaid continuing care supports, and this figure could increase by 71 per cent in 2026.

The report, Future Care for Canadian Seniors, A Primer on Nursing Supply and Demand, provides an estimate of what demand for nurses in continuing care could look like as Canada’s population ages. Under a status quo scenario, overall demand for nursing in providing continuing care to seniors in home, community, and facility-living environments is projected to increase from just under 64,000 full-year jobs to 142,000 full-year jobs by 2035—an annual growth rate of 3.4 per cent. This rate of increase will far exceed the modest 1 per cent annual growth projected in the general labour force.

The forecast of nursing labour suggests that the supply of nurses is not likely to keep up with increased demand. Furthermore, as federal and provincial governments expand home and community care services, and implement dementia and palliative care strategies, demand for nurses could be even greater than the estimates presented.

Recruitment of nurses to continuing care settings can be a challenge. In order to meet future demand, a number of issues impacting the supply of nurses need to be addressed. Working in a continuing care setting with seniors is not always a preferred choice for new nursing graduates as many typically prefer working in hospitals. Other issues include wages gaps between nurses in institutional settings and home care settings, workload, isolation, and safety.

This report is of part of the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care’s the Future Care for Canadian Seniors research series and is co-sponsored by the Canadian Nurses Association.

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