CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Government on right track, not fast track

By David Chilton
Special to The Sun

They call it the 70% solution. It's not something cooked up in a lab, but the number of nurses who should be working full time in Ontario, says the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO).

At the moment, 59% of Ontario's nurses work full time, says the RNAO, and while government funding means the province is on the right track, it isn't on the fast track to that 70% figure.

These and other findings are in the just released study "The 70 per cent solution: A progress report on increasing full-time employment for Ontario RNs."

Joan Lesmond, president of

the RNAO and an RN who works full time, says the reasons are straightforward for her association urging more targeted funding that would pay for 70% full-time employment.

"Positive impact"

"It's to ensure that there's continuity, to minimize sick time, and also to have a positive impact on health care. So nurses would not be running in different settings, doing four different jobs to (create) a full-time job, but nurses would be working in one environment."

The RNAO came up with its proposed 70% solution by talking to nurses from across the association, Lesmond says. More full-time work would be more satisfying for them and would lead to greater patient satisfaction, she says.

One medical spur to the greater employment of full-time nurses was SARS, Lesmond says, with the crisis throwing into sharp relief just how many RNs were working part time or casual shifts and unavailable to facilities struck with SARS.

According to Doris Grinspun, the RNAO's executive director, the percentage of RNs working full time for one employer dropped to 50% in 1998, prompting the association to push for an end to relying too heavily on part-time and casual nursing staff.

During the 2003 election the Liberals committed themselves to working towards the 70% solution.

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care funded the survey, released June 14. It analysed the responses of 1,515 RNs and 280 hospital, community and long-term care employers.

In the first year of the move towards seven out of 10 nurses working full time, the survey found 1,408 new RN jobs had been created across Ontario by January. By far the greatest number of new full- time positions, 1,098, opened up in hospitals in the province, easily beating the provincial government's target of 800 new full-time jobs for RNs.

The survey shows increases in full-time employment for RNs varied by sector. Hospitals in the province saw a 2% increase, with home care jobs up 2.3% and long-term care positions increasing by 2.8%.

25% want full-time

The report also shows that almost a quarter -- 24.5% -- of RNs working part time or casually wanted full-time employment. And if their preferences were met, the percentage of RNs working full time in Ontario would go up to 64.5%, the survey demonstrates.
  • Last year there were 106,337 nurses registered to practise in Ontario.
  • There were 86,168 RNs working in nursing in the province last year.
  • More than 1,500 registered nurses are looking for work in nursing in Ontario.
  • Last year there were 69.5 employed nurses for every 10,000 people in Ontario, down substantially from 1987 when there were 81.6 employed RNs for every 10,000 people.
  • In 2003, Newfoundland had the highes percentage of nurses employed full time.

  • The survey also reports that many more RNs now working part- time or casual shifts were prepared to work full time if their employment contracts or work environments improved. Some 42.1% of part-timers would go full time and so would 23.4% of casuals.

    If nurses achieve their 70% goal, then Lesmond says she hopes their experience will carry over into other sectors of health care.

    That's because, in the end, everything RNs and others are doing is for the good of their patients, she points out.

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