Nursing Retention Toolkit: Improving the Working Lives of Nurses in Canada

Mar 4, 2024

Health Canada

A message from the advisory committee

Every minute, day or night, in every corner of the country, nurses work to ensure the health of patientsFootnote1, families, and communities. The work of nurses forms the base of health care, and the working conditions of our workforce are of vital importance to sustaining our publicly funded system in Canada. However, over the last several decades, the working lives and conditions of nurses have declined, leading to the national nursing retention crisis we are witnessing today. As a country and a society, it is past time to address the root causes of the nursing shortage with a commitment to nursing retention.

The nursing retention toolkit is designed to support our commitment towards improving the retention of nursing staff. The first of its kind, it is built on the knowledge and experiences of nurses from every province and territory, united in articulating what we need to do to support nurses in their ongoing work. What we offer you are feasible retention initiatives that can be implemented immediately. Each initiative has been carefully validated with nurses in a wide range of roles and in diverse care settings, constituting a compendium of bold and innovative solutions for nurses, by nurses.

There is flexibility in the implementation of the initiatives in this toolkit. Each initiative can stand alone, and each grow stronger when taken up together. While directed towards retaining nurses caring for patients directly, each initiative can also be considered in other domains of nursing work, such as leadership, policy, research, and education. Every initiative can and should be explored, regardless of the shortage of nurses in any given practice setting. All require political will and a genuine commitment to involve nurses in change.

The toolkit offers a reminder that nurses are human beings, requiring what any other human needs: rest, nourishment, work-life balance, and fulfilment at work. It is also a reminder that nurses are not heroes who selflessly care despite the context. Nurses are professionals with knowledge, skills, and expertise that make a difference for people in Canada. Nurses know how important their work is to the health of all people. Nurses also know what we need to continue the critical work of sustaining health care for all. We ask that you use this toolkit to aid nurses in helping you protect the health care system in this country. We cannot act alone; we need all levels of health care governance to join us in this effort. This toolkit is an action plan, and we ask that you take action with us today.

Cynthia Baker, RN, PhD
Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing

Liliana Canadic, RN, BScN
Ministry of Health, Government of Saskatchewan

Tim Guest, RN, BScN, MBA
Canadian Nurses Association

Cynthia Johansen, MSc, MAL
BC College of Nurses & Midwives

Toni Leamon, BA, BScN, RN
Patient Advocate

Linda McGillis Hall, RN, PhD
University of Toronto

Ovie Onagbeboma, RN
Canadian Black Nurses Alliance

Linda Silas, RN, BscN
Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions

Natalie Stake-Doucet, RN, PhD
Université de Montréal/Quebec Nurses Association

Angela Wignall, RN, BSN, BA, MA
Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of British Columbia

Eyasu Yakob, Nursing Student
Canadian Nursing Students’ Association

Canadian Black Nurses Alliance
Canadian Black Nurses Alliance