July 7, 2023

Nurses to premiers: fix the nursing shortage to end the health care crisis

Silas: This is a critical moment in health care, and Canada’s leaders must prioritize fixing the nursing shortage.

July 6, 2023 (OTTAWA, ON) – As the Council of the Federation begins critical meetings on the future of Canada’s public health care systems, nurses are looking to the premiers for coordinated action to fix the crisis in nursing and complete the recovery of our ailing health care systems.

“Patients waiting in cars because ERs are full; surgeries delayed; 12-hour shifts that become 16 hours or 24 hours because there’s no relief in sight – these are the painful realities of a severely understaffed health care system that nurses and their patients are facing,” said Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). “As Premiers discuss health care agreements, it is crucial they center the voices of frontline nurses.”

Nurses from across the country shared what it’s currently like working in health care. Their stories are showcased in a new CFNU campaign that brings nurses’ experiences to the forefront of the health crisis conversation.

“Nurses have told us how deeply concerned with patient care they are, and burn out is rampant across the profession,” said Silas. “We need comprehensive retention initiatives, immediate and long‑term, to stop the mass exodus of health care workers and ensure nurses are there when we need them.”

Silas emphasized the importance of investing in nurses within Canada’s public health care system to stem the reliance on costly for-profit staffing agencies. The CFNU is calling on premiers to use the recent increase to the Canada Health Transfer and the negotiation of bilateral agreements to bolster the nursing workforce by investing in strong retention initiatives, enabling a robust recovery of public health care systems across the country.

Canada’s nurses are proposing investments in key areas to address the dire crisis:

  • Adopting minimum nurse-to-patient ratios
  • Enacting legislation and regulations around safe hours of continuous work
  • Strengthening mental health supports
  • Supporting nurses across their careers through initiatives such as paid preceptorship and flexible scheduling
  • Expediting registration and workforce integration for internationally educated nurses

“The impact short-staffing has on nurses and patients cannot be overstated. Nurses are doing everything in their power to care for patients, but much of the power to improve patient care lies with governments,” explained Silas. “We are urging provinces and territories to work with nurses’ unions and push for federal government support on innovative pan-Canadian programs to directly support frontline nurses. This is a critical moment in health care, and Canada’s leaders must be ready to roll up their sleeves and rise to the occasion.”

Silas will be at the Council of the Federation meetings, accompanied by provincial nursing union leaders, to engage directly with premiers around solutions at a health care policy panel hosted by the CFNU on July 11 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing 250,000 Canada’s frontline nurses in every sector of health care – from home care, to LTC, community and acute care, including nursing students – and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in the future of public health care.

For more information, please contact Adella Khan, media@nursesunions.ca, 613-807-2942