The Shocking Reality of Canada's Healthcare Shortage – What You Need to Know



In the healthcare sector in Canada, one pressing concern stands out: a critical shortage of professionals.

For instance, emergency departments closed 158 times in Ontario in 2022, equating to 84 days (about three months) of lost urgent care (Toronto Star, 2023). About 60,000 health workers in Quebec were absent or missing from the province’s health system in June 2022 (nearly 8,000 more than the previous summer). Six emergency rooms were partially closed (about 1 in 20) to adjust to this shortage of workers, and reduced services were announced in some neonatal units. This phenomenon is not isolated to Quebec and Ontario but is a global issue, severely impacting patient care delivery worldwide (OMS) and Canada (Varner, 2023). The scarcity of doctors, nurses, and other essential healthcare professionals puts immense strain on our healthcare systems, making it difficult to provide adequate and timely care.


Behind the Crisis: Exploring the Escdalating Shortage of Healthcare Providers and the Silent Burnout Epidemic.

Several factors contribute to the shortage of healthcare providers, creating a complex web of challenges. Attrition rates and burnout among healthcare workers are two of these factors.


Healthcare Crisis Unveiled: The Alarming Exodus of Professionals and Its Dire Impact on Patient Care.

Attrition rates among healthcare providers have risen in recent years. In Ontario, 60% of RPNs have considered leaving the profession, according to The State of Nursing in Ontario: A 2023 Report. Furthermore, the percentage of nurses working in the profession in Ontario decreased from 91.2% in 2016 to 88.9% in 2023, indicating a trend of professionals leaving the field or the province (College of Nurses in Ontario, 2023). In Quebec, about half of the nurses are leaving the profession before 35 (Faubert, 2023), and turnover rates for nurses in hospitals increased by nearly 10 percent in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic rates (Greig, 2023).

The phenomenon of healthcare professionals leaving the field poses significant challenges to delivering quality patient care in the context of an aging population. For example, before the pandemic, the domestic supply of nurses in Canada had not kept pace with the ever-increasing demand for services. Pre-pandemic age- and needs-based forecasting models have estimated shortages in over 100,000 nurses nationwide by 2030. This estimated shortage, compounded with the fact that COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for health services, underlines the urgency of addressing these turnover rates to maintain effective healthcare delivery.


Beyond Exhaustion: Unveilling the Toll on The Silent Crisis of Burnout Among Healthcare Workers.

Burnout among healthcare workers has also been critically rising in recent years. The demanding nature of their profession, coupled with long working hours and reduced vacation time, contributed to this silent epidemic. For instance, nearly half (49%) of family doctors recently surveyed by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) reported working beyond their desired capacity. High or severe work-related burnout is experienced around four times more by family physicians working beyond their desired capacity. Across Canada, overworked health workers seem “past the point of exhaustion” (Duong & Vogel, 2023). In 2021, more than 9000 full-time jobs were worked overtime by Canadian healthcare workers, and during the spring of 2022, 266 900 healthcare workers reported working overtime — the highest number ever (Duong & Vogel, 2023).


Breaking Point: The Escalating Burnout Crisis – Exposing the Disturbing Statistics and Impact on Patient Care.

Before the pandemic, healthcare provider burnout rates, on average, hovered between 30% and 50%. A recent study (2024) highlighted that the prevalence of burnout among a large sample of the Canadian health workforce is now up to 78.7%. Even more alarming, 94% of nurses are experiencing symptoms of burnout, according to the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. This shocking trend is affecting not only the providers themselves but also the quality of patient care. Additionally, burnout contributes to the high turnover rates in the healthcare industry discussed above. Providers may feel compelled to leave their positions for a healthier work-life balance, exacerbating the shortage of skilled healthcare professionals.

A recent study found significant associations between burnout and work-related factors among the Canadian healthcare workforce. These associations suggest that health organizations must consider interventions that mitigate burnout, prioritize the well-being of their healthcare providers and encourage a healthy work-life balance.

What solutions can be put forward by health organizations to mitigate burnout and address turnover rates?


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