WeRPN highlights urgent need to address nursing shortages

WeRPN calls for action on staffing shortages to support nurses and improve patient care in Ontario

WeRPN highlights urgent need to address nursing shortages

The Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (WeRPN) has released its annual survey titled ‘The State of Nursing in Ontario: A 2024 Review.’  

Despite some improvements, staffing shortages remain significant, necessitating further action to support nurses and ensure optimal patient care.   

Nearly 78 percent of RPNs surveyed have been directly impacted by the nursing shortage. Most RPNs (84 percent) report an increase in their workload over the past year, down slightly from 92 percent the previous year.  

Almost half of the respondents (49 percent) believe the quality of patient care worsened over the past year, with 45 percent noting no improvement. Among those affected by the shortage, 93 percent have seen patient care compromised due to insufficient staffing.  

Additionally, 58 percent of RPNs lack the time or resources needed to provide adequate care to patients, residents, or clients.   

“While we have seen some marginal improvements, the overall pace is not moving in the direction where it needs to be to appropriately address the effects of staffing shortages that persist across the province,” says Dianne Martin, chief executive officer of WeRPN.  

“Ontario's RPNs are in a unique position and continue to bear the brunt of pervasive staffing shortages that not only jeopardize the quality of care they can provide to patients but also impact their personal well-being. If we want to return nursing to a thriving profession, we need to focus much more on retaining experienced RPNs as well as growing our nursing workforce to meet the needs of our patients now and into the future,” Martin continued.  

This year saw nearly 48 percent of Ontario RPNs surveyed consider leaving the profession. While this is an improvement from last year's 62 percent, losing more RPNs would be devastating for patients.  

The survey reveals that 69 percent of respondents have witnessed an increase in experienced nurses (RNs and RPNs) leaving their workplace in the past year. Additionally, 50 percent of RPNs do not feel their workplace has enough experienced nurses to consult on complex cases.   

The government has added 1,752 RPNs, but the province lost 2,166 RPNs, resulting in 414 fewer RPNs registered this May compared to last year.  

While Ontario graduates new RPNs, experienced RPNs are leaving at a faster pace. Nearly a third (29 percent) of RPNs have changed roles in the past year, with 40 percent moving away from direct patient care.   

WeRPN Calls for Immediate Action   

WeRPN urges the Ontario government and healthcare leaders to take the following actions:   

  • Legislate Nurse-to-Patient Ratios: Establish standardized ratios to improve patient care and ensure workplace safety. 

  • Competitive Nursing Wages: Align RPN compensation with RN counterparts to incentivize retention. 

  • Maintain Staffing Numbers: Ensure organizations meet regular staffing levels to avoid normalizing short staffing. 

  • Streamline Educational Opportunities: Support continuing education and increase spaces in nursing schools. 

  • Reduce Reliance on Agencies: Develop full-time nursing positions to decrease reliance on for-profit agencies. 

“The provincial government and healthcare leadership teams must continue to take action to further tackle increasing RPN staffing shortages head-on,” adds Martin.  

“We are at a critical inflection point in our healthcare system, and we are asking leadership to demonstrate to RPNs that they acknowledge the significance of these challenges, that they understand their invaluable contributions to the health of Ontarians, and that they will take urgent action to return to RPNs their ability to provide optimal care for patients.” 

This report, based on the experiences of over 1,300 Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs), highlights the ongoing impact of the nursing crisis in Ontario.