Addressing the Global Nursing Shortage: Challenges and Solutions


The current nursing shortage, which the Canadian Nurses Association predicted in 2009 would be at 60,000 by 2022, has peaked well beyond that number in 2024. In 2022, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions quoted a study that puts the nursing shortage at 117,600 nurses in Canada by 2030. In Ontario alone, the province’s fiscal watchdog projects a shortage of 33,000 nurses by 2028.

Nurses have long been called the backbone of the healthcare system, and they are the largest group of regulated health professionals in Canada, representing 48.2 per cent of that workforce. That is almost half of all healthcare workers. Governments may announce funding and plans for new healthcare facilities, additional beds in both hospitals and long-term care, but if there are not enough nurses to provide bedside care, beds may sit empty with the quality of care in potential jeopardy. For patients needing community or home care, they may have to wait much longer for the care they urgently need.

The systemic shortfalls in addressing the current nursing shortage had been on the radar for many years: demographics warned there would be a wave of retirements, the patient population was living longer with more complex conditions, and nursing schools were not bolstering enrollment sufficiently to address the looming crisis with cuts to higher education along with diminished healthcare spending. The COVID-19 pandemic upended the healthcare system with unprecedented demand, and many nurses left the profession to preserve their own health. Surveys continually report that nurses are stressed, unhappy and making plans to quit their current jobs. A 2023 survey by the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (WeRPN) found that 6 in 10 nurses were considering or will leave nursing.

Another pressure on the healthcare system are hundreds of thousands of immigrants welcomed to this country in the last number of years to meet Canadian labour demands. It is among those newcomers that a solution to the nurse staffing crisis is at hand. Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) come to Canada with years of experience and global perspectives, eager to return to the profession they love. For many years obtaining registration with regulators across the country has been an arduous journey, especially in provinces with high
immigration levels. 

CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses was founded in 2001 to support IENs on their journey to registration and employment, funded by the Ontario government. A pre-arrival supports and services (PASS) program with funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada since 2016, assists IENs headed anywhere in Canada to jump-start their nursing careers. Now CARE Centre has launched a Workplace Integration Program to help employers recruit and keep nurses on staff, satisfied and growing in their nursing careers.

“Retention is key to solving the nursing shortage,” says CARE Centre’s Professional Practice Lead, Ruth Wojtiuk. “Recruitment and successful on-boarding are the first steps in IEN integration, but our program also gives employers the tools to fully utilize and deploy IENs so that they stay on the job and contribute to healthcare

If there was any positive aspect to the tragedy of the pandemic, CARE Centre has witnessed IENs finally being recognized for the valuable health human resource that is needed. Regulatory bodies across the country have modified their registration processes by removing barriers to facilitate earlier completion. Employers have stepped up to hire IENs in non-regulated positions, to support them in their registration process and have them well oriented when nursing registration is achieved.

“Our Workplace Integration Program enables employers to facilitate a smooth transition and successful integration of IENs into their workforce and empower them to succeed and excel in the workplace,” says Wojtiuk. “We can offer Cross Cultural Customized Recruitment, Workplace Diversity, Cultural Competence and Early Transitional Issues training, facilitation in Orientation Planning, Self-Assessment and Quality Assurance, promotion of Client-Centered Care, and a module on Language and Communication: Real and Perceived Barriers. Employers can choose from this menu of offerings to address their particular workplace needs, and we are constantly reviewing additional areas where we can share more of our knowledge.”

For more information about CARE Centre’s Workplace Integration Program, visit

By Tina Novotny

Tina Novotny is Case Manager and Communications Lead, CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses.


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