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How Many Are Enough?  Redefining Self-Sufficiency for the Health Workforce - A Discussion Paper

Prepared by the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources (ACHDHR)
July 2009

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Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Faced with a global shortage of skilled health providers, countries are struggling -- and often competing -- to develop and maintain a stable, adequate health workforce. Developed countries like Canada are under pressure to become more self-sufficient in health human resources. In the Framework for Collaborative Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Planning developed by the Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources (ACHDHR), federal/provincial/territorial governments identified greater self-sufficiency as one of the principles of effective health human resource planning.

Traditionally, self-sufficiency has been defined almost exclusively in terms of numbers: that is, the capacity to produce or recruit enough new health care providers each year to compensate for attrition (i.e., retirements, turnover, out migration) in each profession occupational group, and keep pace with population growth. How many are enough? explores the pressures in the current system that affect self-sufficiency, including the mobility of the workforce, advances in research, new technologies, changes in health care delivery, workforce demographics, and the impact of policy decisions and efforts to manage the health care system. It also describes a range of strategies -- in addition to producing more health care providers -- that jurisdictions across Canada are using to achieve greater self-sufficiency, including: managing demand, developing and implementing new service delivery models and new roles, providing more flexible education programs, redesigning work, and improving workplaces.

How many are enough? proposes an inclusive approach to defining Pan-Canadian self-sufficiency that moves beyond supply-based planning.

Self-sufficiency in health human resources is the ability to attract, develop and retain the right supply and mix of skilled health care providers working within each jurisdiction's service delivery models to provide high quality, timely, safe care that meets the population's changing health needs.

Achieving Pan-Canadian self-sufficiency in HHR requires:

  • greater capacity to define and measure population health needs;
  • medium and long term planning based on population health needs and service delivery models;
  • jurisdictions to balance their responsibility to educate enough health care providers to meet the population's health needs with their responsibility to provide opportunities for skilled immigrants who choose to make their home in Canada and their responsibility as global citizens to not intentionally weaken other countries' health care systemsFootnote 1;
  • flexible, interprofessional education programs that support life-long learning, retraining and career development;
  • deployment strategies that encourage appropriate distribution of health care providers across and within jurisdictions including Aboriginal communities;
  • healthy work environments based on collaboration and mutual respect where health care professions can practice to their full scope of practice; and
  • attraction, retention and exit strategies to ensure optimal job satisfaction and use of health care providers' knowledge and skills throughout their career life cycle.

To achieve greater pan-Canadian self-sufficiency, the paper describes how federal, provincial and territorial governments can work together with the education system, employers and health providers to develop, implement and evaluate a comprehensive range of strategies for building and maintaining a stable health workforce.

Effective coordinated and collaborative pan-Canadian health human resources planning will ... strive toward greater self-sufficiency in health human resources.

A Framework for Collaborative Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Planning, Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources (ACHDHR), revised March 2007

Introduction

Having the right supply and mix of health care providers is a goal for all health care systems. Yet, despite health human resource (HHR) planning efforts, few countries have been successful in creating and maintaining a stable, adequate health workforce. Most have experienced periods of oversupply and undersupply and many - including Canada - have always relied on health care providers who are trained in other countries to make up a portion of their workforce. In times of undersupply, the policy of systematically recruiting internationally educated providers can have a negative impact on developing countries that can ill afford to lose their skilled health providers.

As the International Conference on the Global Health Workforce noted, "In countries that already have severe shortages of health care workers (i.e., fewer than one health worker per 1000 population), further loss of workers through premature death or migration is likely to result in loss of health services and loss of life." The health care skills drain from less developed countries is creating pressure on developed countries to address their HHR shortages by becoming more self-sufficient. At the same time, developed countries have argued that it is also important to address the "push" factors that induce the migration of health providers from developing countries, for example through development assistance to strengthen health care systems and incentives for workers to remain in those countries.

The Health Action Lobby (HEAL), a Canadian coalition of close to 40 health professional associations and organizations, identified self-sufficiency as one of ten principles to guide HHR planning (HEAL 2006) and encouraged Canada to attain self-sufficiency in the health care workforce, without detrimental impacts on developing countries. According to the United Nations Joint Learning Initiative Report (JLI 2004), self-sufficiency in HHR is sound and fair, while reliance on immigration is short-sighted and risky. In the Framework for Collaborative Pan-Canadian HHR Planning, greater self-sufficiency is one of the principles of effective HHR planning. The framework's Action Plan includes a commitment to organize a national forum to "discuss and define self-sufficiency and recommend a policy and goals for achieving self-sufficiency".

All jurisdictions in Canada acknowledge that a substantial portion of their health workforce must be home grown. At the same time, they acknowledge that individuals have the right to migrate. Provinces and territories will continue to lose some of their home-grown health care providers to other provinces and countries, and they will continue to receive health care providers educated in other provinces and countries.

Given the current global demand for HHR, a global shortage of health providers, the highly mobile nature of the workforce, and the rapidly changing nature of health care delivery, how can jurisdictions in Canada plan for and achieve self-sufficiency? Which health care providers will we need? How many are enough today? And will we need the same number and mix in two years, five years or ten years? What does self-sufficiency mean for a country like Canada that has traditionally been a land of opportunity for immigrants and will continue to rely on immigration for most of its population growth? How can Canadian jurisdictions balance their responsibility to educate enough health care providers to meet the population's health needs with their responsibility to provide opportunities for skilled immigrants who choose to make their home in Canada and their responsibility as global citizens to not intentionally weaken other countries' health care systems?

The federal government continues to invest to improve access to, and utilization of, HHR in Canada and move toward self-sufficiency through initiatives within the Pan-Canadian HHR Strategy and the Internationally Educated Health Professionals Initiative. Are there other opportunities for Pan-Canadian action to help define and achieve self-sufficiency? In striving for greater self-sufficiency in HHR, what is the role of the federal government, the provinces and territories, the education system, employers and the health professions themselves?

This paper describes the factors that affect self-sufficiency, and proposes a new approach to defining self-sufficiency, and a multifaceted strategy that looks beyond numbers in order to achieve self-sufficiency.

1. Self-Sufficiency is About More than Numbers

In the traditional approach to HHR planning, self-sufficiency has been defined almost exclusively in terms of numbers. It is the capacity to produce or recruit enough new health care providers each year to compensate for attrition (i.e., retirements, turnover, out migration) and keep pace with population growth. The ideal number of each professions required is most commonly expressed as a proportion of the size of the population (i.e., physician to population ratio, nurse to population ratio). For example, the Canadian Institutes of Health Information (CIHI) report on the Supply, Distribution and Migration of Canadian Physicians (2007) measured supply in terms of physician to population ratio and noted that, between 2003 and 2007, the number of physicians to 100,000 population in Canada increased from 187 to 192.

As jurisdictions design their systems to meet population health needs, the types of professionals required and the way they are deployed may change. HHR planning must consider the design of each jurisdiction's health care system and its chosen service delivery models.

Framework for Collaborative Pan-Canadian HHR Planning

This way of defining self-sufficiency tends to focus on the production of new health care providers to maintain the status quo and is used by professions to advocate for increases in the number of training positions. But how many are enough? As the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association noted, this approach to self-sufficiency/HHR supply fails to take into account "productivity, practice patterns or variances in specialty mix" (CMA and CNA, 2005). It also fails to take into account:

  • Canadians' changing health needs;
  • increased investment in health promotion and chronic disease management and the resulting need for different skills and deployment as compared to acute care;
  • advances in treatment and technology that may change the type and amount of treatment patients need;
  • new service delivery models (e.g., use of interprofessional teams);
  • expanded scopes of practice and new deployment models/roles;
  • the distribution of the workforce across the country and within each jurisdiction; and 
  • other factors that affect the need for and supply of health care knowledge and skills, such as increased feminization within some professions, generational differences in working patterns, and the varied reasons why people stay in or leave the health professions.

When self-sufficiency is reduced to a simple counting exercise based on past numbers, it also fails to take into account larger economic and policy factors that affect supply, such as the economic downturn of the late 1990s that caused many physicians to delay retirement.

The Good News About the Numbers

Although self-sufficiency isn't just about production, Canada does have a responsibility to produce health care providers to meet the population's current and future health needs and avoid over-reliance on recruitment from other countries.

Since the mid 1990s, jurisdictions across Canada have taken steps to increase training positions for professions in short supply.

As the following CIHI table (2007) illustrates, as of 2004 Canada was graduating more medical laboratory technologists, medical radiation technologists, midwives, physicians and registered nurses than in 2000. Because many of the increases in training positions occurred after these graduating classes started their training, the number entering education programs is now even higher. Data gathered by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada indicates that, between 2002 and 2006, provinces have increased the number of seats for first year medical students by 22% (from 1,984 to 2,421).

The investment in training positions is having an impact on Canada's capacity to meet health care needs. For example, as the CIHI report notes, the number of physicians - particularly family physicians -- practicing in Canada has increased, and most of that increase is due to a 5.2% increase in Canadian-trained physicians (compared to a 0.7% increase in internationally trained physicians). In addition, between 2002 and 2006, fewer physicians left Canada to work in other countries. This is likely due to changes in the US medical system, which have made practice there less attractive, as well as effective efforts within Canada to retain our home-grown physicians.

With the increases in first year medical school enrollments introduced by Canadian jurisdictions since 1999, the Canadian Medical Association Physician Resource Evaluation Template (PRET) is predicting a population to physician ratio of 449:1 by 2021 - which is significantly lower than the 534:1 ratio in 1999.

Table 2.1: Availability of Training Programs and Graduate Statistics Across Canada, 2004
Occupations No. of Grads 1995 No. of Grads 2000 No. of Grads 2004 Change between 1995 and 2004 Availability of training Programs Across Canada, 2004
N.L. P.E.I N.S. N.B. Que. Ont. Man. Sask. Alta. B.C. Y.T. N.W.T.

 Program available

Table 1 footnotes

Table 1 footnote 1

1995 - 2000 graduates are Health Information Management graduates who became certificants and associates. From 2001 onwards, they are Health Information Management graduates.

Return to table 1 footnote 1 referrer

Table 1 footnote 2

Number of CSMLS General Certificate Exam candidates who obtained General certification

Return to table 1 footnote 2 referrer

Table 1 footnote 3

Number of medical radiation technologist candidates who passed the CAMRT National Certification Exam.

Return to table 1 footnote 3 referrer

Table 1 footnote 4

The University of British Columbia program graduated its first class in 2005.

Return to table 1 footnote 4 referrer

Table 1 footnote 5

Nurse practitioner results were not collected until 2001; Nurse practitioner results are under-reported where the reporting school offered a Master's NP steam but was unable to report graduate results for that stream.

Return to table 1 footnote 5 referrer

Table 1 footnote 6

Represents entry-to-practice (diploma and baccalaureate) graduates. Graduate data may include supplemental data received from the Ordre des infirmiers et infirmieres du Quebec (OIIQ) to offset under-reporting. Training programs represent baccalaureate nurse training programs. For more detailed notes, please refer to the Student and Faculty Survey of Canadian Schools of Nursing Survey Methodology document available form the CAN and CASN.

Return to table 1 footnote 6 referrer

Table 1 footnote 7

1995, 1996, and 1997 are not Student and Faculty survey results, but instead are taken from data of first-time takers of RN licensing examinations due to unreliability of Student and Faculty statistics from 1986 to 1996. n/a Not applicable, change cannot be calculated due to unavailable data.

Return to table 1 footnote 7 referrer

Audiologists Information not collected by HPDB Information not collected by HPDB 86 Not applicable, change cannot be calculated due to unavailable data.     Program available   Program available Program available       Program available    
Chiropractor 135 197 195 Number of graduates increased.         Program available Program available            
Dental Hygienists 608 718 677 Number of graduates increased.     Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available   Program available    
Dentists 554 459 439 Number of graduates decreased.     Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available    
Dieticians Information not collected by HPDB 339 352 Not applicable, change cannot be calculated due to unavailable data. Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available  
Health Information ManagersTable 1 footnote 1 266 157 153 Number of graduates decreased.     Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available
Medical
Laboratory TechnologistsTable 1 footnote 2
545 265 725 Number of graduates increased. Program available     Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available    
Medical
Radiation TechnologistsTable 1 footnote 3
630 575 855 Number of graduates increased. Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available    
MidwivesTable 1 footnote 4 Information not available 7 37 Not applicable, change cannot be calculated due to unavailable data.         Program available Program available Program available     Program available    
Nurse PractitionersTable 1 footnote 5 Information not available Information not available 149 Not applicable, change cannot be calculated due to unavailable data. Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available   Program available
Occupational Therapists 590 584 590 Number of graduates remained consistent (changed less than 20 graduates)     Program available   Program available Program available Program available   Program available Program available    
Optometrists 110 104 108 Number of graduates remained consistent (changed less than 20 graduates)         Program available Program available            
Pharmacists 787 875 686 Number of graduates decreased. Program available   Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available    
Physicians 1,739 1,578 1,757 Number of graduates remained consistent (changed less than 20 graduates) Program available   Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available    
Physiotherapists 665 622 630 Number of graduates decreased.     Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available    
Registered NursesTable 1 footnote 6,Table 1 footnote 7 7,203 4,816 7,910 Number of graduates increased. Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available   Program available
Social Workers Information not collected by HPDB Information not collected by HPDB 2856 Not applicable, change cannot be calculated due to unavailable data. Program available   Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available Program available    
Speech- Language Pathologists Information not collected by HPDB Information not collected by HPDB 295 Not applicable, change cannot be calculated due to unavailable data.     Program available   Program available Program available     Program available Program available    

Source: Health Personnel Database (HPDB), CIHI; Canadian Nurses Association (CNA); Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN).

Between 2003 and 2006, the number of nurse practitioners working in Canada grew from 725 to 1,303 - an increase of 79.7%.

Figure 3.4: Nurses Employed in Nursing, 2006

Figure 3.4

Notes: Registered Psychiatric Nurses are educated and regulated in the four western provinces only: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

  • ≥5   Value suppressed to ensure confidentiality; cell is 5 or greater.
  • <5   Value suppressed in accordance with CIHI privacy policy; cell value is from 1 to 4.

As of 2006, nurse practitioners have been licensed across Canada, with the exception of the Yukon. Their growth has been steady, with an overall increase of 79.7% between 2003 and 2006 (from 725 in 2003 to 878 in 2004, 1,026 in 2005 and 1,303 in 2006). Over the same time period, the number of jurisdictions licensing nurse practitioners increased from 7 to 12. The figure above is a portrait of the proportion of nurses in Canada, including the number of registered NPs in 2006.

Source: Canadian Regulated Nurses Database, Canadian Institute for Health Information 2007.

As the following figure shows, between 1996 and 2005, there was an increase in the number of health care providers in virtually all professions in Canada. The table provides percentage increases for each profession, which are somewhat misleading because a 217% increase in midwives is fewer than 1,000 new midwives, while a 10% increase in the number of nurses represents over 27,000 new nurses.

Figure 3.3 Percentage Increase in Selected Health Occupations, 1996 to 2005

Figure 3.3

Notes:

  1. Due to the variation in regulatory requirements, interprofessional comparisons should be interpreted with caution.
  2. Audiologists, medical laboratory technologists, medical radiation technologists, midwives, respiratory therapists and speech-language pathologists are not regulated in all provinces. Data include some provincial data in which registration with a regulatory authority may not be a condition of practice.

Source: Health Personnel Database, Canadian Institute for Health Information

While education is a provincial responsibility, not all provinces have the capacity to train all professions.  For selected disciplines, it may be preferable to support centres of excellence that educate health professionals for all jurisdictions. Currently, there is little or no national coordination in this regard, which may lead to under- or oversupply of particular health providers. National coordination as it relates to provincial responsibility offers challenges, but also offers rewards in terms of self-sufficiency. See Appendix A for tables that document changes in the supply of physicians, nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists by province/territory between 2002 and 2005.

2. Looking Beyond the Numbers

As noted above, numbers do not tell the whole workforce story, and are not the only factor to consider in achieving greater self-sufficiency. A number of other factors help determine the ideal supply, mix, distribution and utilization of the health care workers over time, which means that jurisdictions must use a number of different strategies to enhance the productivity and stability of the health workforce.

Understanding Health Needs

The number and mix of health care providers that Canada will need now and in the future will depend, among other factors, on Canada's population health needs and HHR planners' ability to adequately measure and forecast those needs. Current projections of the number of providers required are based on the assumption that people will need the same services from the same providers that they have in the past, and that our aging population - which has traditionally used three times as many services as younger Canadians - will overwhelm our health services system.

There is no question that an aging population will represent a challenge to our health services, but a number of factors must be considered. For example, the current generation of older people is healthier than past generations. Some estimates indicate that "older adults will experience fewer debilitating illnesses... and only a few years of major illness in very old age, rather than living many years in a debilitative state" and that "aging boomers will increase health care costs... by only about 1% per year" (Fries, 2005; Barer et al, 1995).  In addition, Aboriginal people make up a growing share of Canada's total population. While this population is much younger than the non-Aboriginal population, its health needs are significantly higher than the non-Aboriginal population. These needs combined with an aging non-Aboriginal population will have great impact on health systems, and the planning for health providers in those systems.

Jurisdictions across Canada need better ways to define health needs, gather information on those needs, analyze the factors that influence needs as well as those that build health and resilience, and forecast future needs. As electronic health records become more widely used they will help jurisdictions identify population health needs, the mix of services that people use, as well as the types of services that contribute to better health outcomes.

Promoting Health and Managing Demand

Most efforts to improve self-sufficiency in HHR focus on ways to influence and shape the supply and distribution of health care providers; however, there are also opportunities to influence demand. Jurisdictions across Canada have already demonstrated that well informed citizens who have access to health information can manage many health problems on their own. Most jurisdictions are now investing in health promotion, chronic disease management, prevention programs and services, and information that helps patients with self care.

As the province of New Brunswick states in Our Action Plan to be Self-Sufficient in New Brunswick (2007), "We will do more to promote healthy living, encourage healthy habits and lifestyle choices for young and old alike, provide people with chronic illnesses the opportunity to do more to manage their own care, [and] enable senior citizens to enjoy healthy and active lives". Many education and monitoring programs that will help Canadians stay healthy can be delivered by a variety of health workers. These programs have the potential to delay or reduce the need for treatment services.

Jurisdictions across Canada are using a range of strategies, including expanding the use of telehealth services, providing system navigators, using pharmacists to improve prescribing practices, and implementing home-based monitoring systems to promote self-care and to help citizens make appropriate health care choices. These approaches will help reduce the demand on primary care providers as well as inappropriate use of other health services.

Many quality improvement initiatives being implemented in health care settings across Canada focus on reducing avoidable demand by educating patients and directing them to the "right" places and providers to meet their needs, and by changing processes and making more efficient use of providers' time and skills. For example, both primary and specialty care services can reduce the number of patient visits and improve productivity by ensuring that all test results and other information are available when the patient sees the provider.

Capitalizing on Advances in Treatment and Technology

Health care practices and procedures are changing rapidly, becoming more efficient and less invasive. For example, the laparoscope is replacing open surgery; it is possible that drug and laser therapy will eventually replace coronary artery bypass grafts; and genomics and stem cell research may lead to a new era of treatment (Lewis, 2006).

Robotics and other machines (e.g., electrocardiogram machines) are replacing the need for certain human skills, including interpretive and diagnostic skills. These trends will continue to alter the type and mix of health care skills health providers require now and in the future.

Governments continue to investigate and identify treatments and technologies that show potential to improve care and reduce costs. Effective information systems, digital diagnostic records, and the electronic health records are designed to reduce the administrative burden on health providers, eliminate unnecessary duplication and increase productivity.

Developing New Service Delivery Models

The number of service providers required now and in the future will depend on - and can be altered by - service delivery models. Some service delivery models are labour or resource intensive, while others are more efficient. Provinces and territories are investigating new models of service delivery designed to improve access to care and make more effective use of all health care providers' knowledge and skills.

For example, all jurisdictions in Canada are implementing collaborative, interprofessional teams as a way to make more effective use of a mix of health care skills. These service delivery models are already having an impact on the number and mix of health care providers required to meet population health needs. For example, doctors working as part of an interprofessional team can provide care for up to 52% more patients than doctors working alone, and patients who receive care from a team-based practice receive a wider range of services (Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2006). More than eight in 10 Canadians surveyed believe that interprofessional primary care teams will improve both their access to care and the quality of the services they receive. Team-based care is not limited to primary care: teams are also being implemented in acute care, long-term care, home care and palliative care.

Making dramatic improvements in quality of care depends more on doing things well than on who is doing what.

Institute of Medicine, 2001

Some jurisdictions are also exploring other models of service delivery that make more efficient use of all auxiliary health care resources. For example, improvements in the cleaning and scheduling of operating room time can allow hospitals to provide more surgeries with the same number of surgeons and operating room staff. The location of hospitals and clinics and the basket of services provided in different parts of the health care system can lead to more effective use of existing providers. Shared care models and the use of telemedicine can make more effective use of the skills of a small number of specialists, while ensuring that patients continue to receive high quality care.

Expanding Scopes of Practice and Developing New Roles

In an ideal health system, "professionals would operate at the high end of their cognitive and experiential capacity. ... They would delegate tasks that do not stretch their capacities, sharpen their skills, and maintain their enthusiasm for what they do. This would at the same time create new challenges for other professions and maximize their capacities." (Lewis, 2006)

Many Canadian jurisdictions are examining the scopes of practice of their health care providers to determine whether they accurately reflect their knowledge and competencies. Given the additional years of training now required for many professional programs, it is appropriate for jurisdictions to assess whether scope of practice legislation and the deployment of health care providers have kept pace with their training. Within their current scope of practice, many providers are limited in what they are able to do -- although they may have the skills and competencies to do more. A number of provinces have already made changes in how they are using different health providers. For example, in Manitoba, dental hygienists can now practice independently.

Some jurisdictions have made changes to legislation to allow certain providers to practice to their full scope; others have introduced new roles, which give existing providers the opportunity to move into a different type of practice. Almost all jurisdictions now have advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners.  Nurse practitioners provide a range of health services to individuals of all ages, families and communities and complement other health care providers. In some provinces, such as Alberta, pharmacists are now able to prescribe medications and order diagnostic tests. Manitoba was the first province to create the clinical assistants role: under the legislation, physician assistants, nurses with advanced training, pharmacists, paramedics and international medical graduates are able to perform certain medical functions. This approach is now being used effectively by many provinces and territories to improve access to key procedures and reduce wait times. These changes enhance jurisdictions' capacity to deploy their health workforces fully, while still ensuring that patients receive high quality care from skilled providers.

Canadian jurisdictions are also looking more closely at increases in credentials requested for health professional certification because longer training programs slow the production of home-grown health care workers. Increased entry-to-practice credentials often result in the development of a cadre of "assistants" or technicians who do more of the routine tasks. The end result is that two classes of providers provide the services formerly provided by one.

Taking a Competency-based Approach to Redesigning Work

Redesigning work and "modernizing jobs" is a strategy that has been used effectively in the UK to make more effective use of the workforce. The process starts by identifying population health needs, the skills required to meet these needs and the health care providers who have the necessary skills (rather than starting from traditional professions and roles). Different sites are pilot testing job redesigns, which are evaluated for their impact on patient care, the providers' job satisfaction, retention, turnover rates, staff wastage and contribution to building career ladders.

This type of competency-based approach focuses on the skills of different providers. It recognizes that the level of knowledge, skill and judgment required to provide different health care services varies, and that more knowledge is not always better. In developing countries, some surgical procedures are performed by people with a few weeks or months of training with excellent results. The Disease Control Priorities Project of the World Bank lists the training of non-physicians to perform basic surgical procedures as a "best buy" strategy for improving health in developing nations (Lewis, 2006).

While it would be inappropriate to use a developing world model of care in Canada, it is appropriate to consider separating technical or procedural work from diagnostic skill in order to meet health needs and make more effective use of the existing workforce. In fact, this kind of competency-based approach to care is behind the development of nurse anesthetists and clinical assistants, and has been used to help cut wait times for procedures such as cataract surgery - without affecting quality of care. It is also the strategy that Ontario proposes to use to meet demands for health care during an influenza pandemic.

Understanding Practice Patterns

The actual supply of services and skills -- as opposed to the supply of providers -- available to meet population health needs depends on how providers practice. Health care planners use practice patterns to make assumptions about the amount of service available, including the number of hours that physicians would work in a week and the types of services they provide.

Practice patterns are affected by a number of factors, including provider age and gender, and the trend to specialization. In Canada, practice patterns are evolving as younger physicians try to find a better balance between their personal and professional lives. To predict both the capacity of the physician workforce and the number of physicians required to meet population health needs, HHR planners need more sophisticated ways to measure the equivalent of a full-time clinical workload for all types of physicians.

Health care is a "female" profession: women make up 77% of the health workforce in Canada (CIHI, 2007) compared to 47% of all occupations. Women have long outnumbered men in nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, medical technology, and they now outnumber the number of men graduating from medical school (CIHI, 2007). The high proportion of female health care providers has an impact on practice patterns because women are more likely to be out of the workforce for periods of time for child raising, and more likely to work fewer hours or work part-time. According to CIHI, female physicians worked 21% fewer hours than male physicians.

Table 3.1: Percent Female of Health Occupations, 2001
Health-Related Occupations Female

Table 2 footnotes

Table 2 footnote 1

According to data from R. J. Pitblado and Canadian Institute for Health Information, Summary Report: Distribution and Internal Migration of Canada's Health Care Workforce, CIHI, 2007)

Return to table 2 footnote 1 referrer

Total - All Occupations 47%
Total - Health-Related Occupations 77%
Dental Assistants 98%
Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists 98%
Registered Nurses/Registered Psychiatric Nurses 94%
Dieticians and Nutritionists 93%
Head Nurses and Supervisors 93%
Licensed Practical Nurses 92%
Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists 92%
Occupational Therapists 90%
Cardiology Technologists 90%
Medical Sonographers 86%
Nurse Aides and Orderlies 86%
Other Aides and Assistants in Support of Health Services 84%
Medical Laboratory Technicians 82%
Records and File Clerks 82%
Other Technical Occupations in Therapy and Assessment 81%
Medical Laboratory Technologists and Pathologists' Assistants 81%
Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment 80%
Medical Radiation Technologists 80%
Physiotherapists 79%
Social Workers 79%
Electroencephalographic and Other Diagnostic Technologists 76%
Midwives and Practitioners of Natural Healing 78%
Psychologists 67%
Respiratory Therapists and Clinical Percussionists 65%
Other Professional Occupations in Health Diagnosing and Treating 61%
Other Medical Technologists and Technicians (Except Dental Health) 59%
Opticians 58%
Pharmacists 57%
Senior Managers - Health, Education, Social and Community Services 51%
Other Administrative Services Managers 49%
Dental Technicians and Laboratory Bench Workers 46%
Optometrists 44%
Physicians 30%Table 2 footnote 1
Chiropractors 28%
Dentists 27%
Ambulance Attendants and Other Paramedical Occupations 26%
Denturists 22%

Source: Census of the Population, 2001, Statistics Canada.

Figure 3.10 Count of Graduating Physicians, by Sex, 1993 to 2004

Figure 3.11

Note: Scale does not start at zero

Source: Health Personnel Database, Canadian Institute for Health Information

Figure 3.11 Physicians' Average Weekly Hours Worked, by Sex and Age Group, 2000

Figure 3.10

Source: The 2001 Janus Survey, College of Family Physicians of Canada

To determine "how many are enough" to meet health needs, jurisdictions need more effective ways to monitor providers' practice patterns and productivity, and understand the life cycle of health professions (i.e., the way they work, the services they provide and how their practice patterns change at different ages and stages of life). Changes in practice patterns can affect the overall supply of health services, and is one of the main arguments used to advocate for increases in training positions (i.e., physicians are working fewer hours so we need more physicians).

It is possible for jurisdictions to use strategies to improve the delivery of health services and reduce the impact of changing practice patterns without increasing the number of health providers. For example, providing centralized after-hours and weekend telephone health advice can reduce on-call demand for family physicians and improve timely access to care. More effective scheduling of surgeries and operating room time can reduce wait times for key procedures and provide more services with the same number of providers. Greater use of technology (e.g., digital and tele-imaging) can increase the supply of services without requiring more providers.

Providing Incentives to Increase Access to Services

Health care tends to be specialized and many providers focus on relatively small areas of practice (e.g., dermatologists who specialize in cosmetic procedures, psychiatrists who focus on patients with mild as opposed to severe mental health problems, primary care physicians who specialize in sports medicine or medical esthetics). An Ontario Medical Association survey in 2004 revealed that 16% of family physicians in Ontario were devoting themselves to a single focus of medicine rather than practicing comprehensive primary care (Physician Human Resource Committee Working Group on Postgraduate Allocations, 2004).

Often the population would be better served by generalists who can provide a range of services for people with complex needs. This is the theory behind the growing trend for specialists to refer patients with chronic diseases, such as cardiac disease or cancer, whose conditions are stable, back to primary care providers, who are responsible for ongoing monitoring, health promotion and disease management. This approach not only provides appropriate care, it allows the specialist to focus on patients who require specialized care.

To increase the number of generalists, jurisdictions have expanded the number of training positions for family medicine. However, other strategies exist that could be used to promote and reward both generalization and appropriate use of highly specialized skills. These strategies include incentives for interprofessional teams that provide a range of services and for health care providers to work in areas of specific need, such as pediatrics and mental health.

Most jurisdictions in Canada use a combination of incentives and rural training programs to encourage more providers to practice in rural and remote areas. Incentives include return-of-service agreements, enhanced salaries and office support. Saskatchewan offers bursaries with a return of service agreement to students training in a wide range of health disciplines. In exchange for help with their tuition costs, students commit to work in Saskatchewan's publicly funded health system for a specified period of time after they complete their training.

The only new medical school to open in Canada in the last 30 years is in northern Ontario, and is designed to recruit and prepare health care providers - including Aboriginal providers - to work in rural and remote areas. Universities in several other provinces, including British Columbia and New Brunswick, have established distributed campuses in rural areas for the same purpose.

Creating a Flexible Workforce and Attractive Career Paths

Self-sufficiency would be a much less pressing issue if all those who trained to be health care providers in Canada stayed in the field. While it is reasonable to expect some turnover in any industry, the health care system loses a high proportion of the nursing workforce: about 6% a year during the first five years of their careers, and over 7% a year later in their careers (CIHI, 2007). Strategies that successfully stem these losses would significantly enhance our self-sufficiency.

Right now, health care systems also lose many skilled providers in mid-career, such as nurses and paramedics who can no longer manage the physical demands of their jobs. Different jurisdictions are looking at ways to make effective use of these experienced workers' knowledge and skills. For example, Ontario now has a late-career program that allows older nurses to devote a certain number of hours each week to teaching, mentoring or other less physically demanding types of work. Other jurisdictions are now using older paramedics as clinical assistants in hospital emergency departments.

Flexibility will be key to an effective stable health workforce now and in the future. Health care providers must have the capacity and opportunity to shift and change careers as health needs and their jobs evolve.

Most jurisdictions now offer models of interprofessional education that will support effective collaborative team-based care. A common foundation year for all health care professions may result in a more flexible workforce with a common set of health care competencies and more workers who can make the transition from one health career to another. All jurisdictions must develop multi-skilling and retraining programs that produce new capacity quickly and efficiently, and provide dynamic career pathways. Providers should have a range of options to develop and extend their careers through life-long learning, including new re-entry routes to practice. Given the increasing length of training programs required for most professions, jurisdictions must also offer different pathways into the professions - including shorter programs that lead to entry-level roles, but can be a route to more advanced training and skilled roles within the health care system.

Saskatchewan is currently implementing a career pathing pilot project in a number of sites across the province. The project will develop career pathing tools and strategies, criteria for participant selection, and a communications and marketing strategy. The pilot will help identify the supports required for effective career pathing. To improve recruitment and retention of First Nations and Métis students from northern Saskatchewan, the province has also established the Northern Health Science Access Program in Prince Albert. This invaluable 40-seat program provides a 10-month preparatory program, targeted specifically at students interested in careers in nursing, to help them enhance their skills in math, science and English.

Health care planners would also benefit from the development of more robust data on the individuals who stay in their profession throughout their working lives. This information could be used to recruit students who display the characteristic indicators of those most likely to complete their training, stay in health care, and have long, satisfying careers.

As the Aboriginal population continues to represent more of Canada's overall population, so will the need to ensure that Aboriginal peoples occupy an appropriate number of health careers across the system.

In order to do this, the work to remove the barriers to health provider careers that Aboriginal people are facing must continue and be expanded (i.e. enhance opportunities for young Aboriginal students to remain in school, take the requisite math and science courses, and are guided to the possibilities of health careers). This would have a significant impact on Canada's ability to enhance its self-sufficiency while strengthening its economy and serving all of its population.

Providing Quality Workplaces

Health care systems are competing with other industries for skilled people. It is critical that workplaces be able to attract and retain workers. Governments and workplaces need to understand the reasons for high turnover or attrition rates -- such as lack of work-life balance and safety concerns -- and develop strategies that will reduce losses, improve job satisfaction and increase productivity (Dreesch, 2007).

Providers should be surveyed regularly about their satisfaction with their work environment and the factors that could enhance their work life. Workplaces should share information on initiatives that have had a positive impact on retention, quality of care and productivity.

3. The Role of Internationally Educated Health Providers

Canada will continue to be a country of choice for settlement for internationally educated health providers. According to the CIHI report, Highlights from the Regulated Nursing Workforce in Canada, 2006, internationally educated nurses accounted for 7.0% of the regulated nursing workforce in 2006, a slight increase from 6.7% in 2003. The proportion of internationally educated nurses in Canada is comparable to that of Austria (7%) and the United Kingdom (8%), and less than half that of the United States (16% in 2000).

Figure 5.7 Canadian Versus Internationally Educated Physicians Working in Canada, 1970 to 2005

Figure 5.7

Source: Scott's Medical Database, Canadian Institute for Health Information.

As of 2006, there were 7,306 family physicians and 6,374 specialists who graduated with a foreign M.D. for a total of 13,680 known internationally educated physicians (CIHI, 2007). They represented about 22% of the physician workforce in 2005 - however, over the past eight years, the proportion of domestically educated physicians has grown, while the proportion of internationally educated physicians has declined (CIHI, 2007).

Internationally educated health providers play a vital role in the health care system, often improving access to culturally competent care. As the following figure shows, in terms of ethnic origin, Canada's health workforce is highly representative of Canada's population.

In terms of self-sufficiency, it often takes less time to enhance the education of recent immigrants to enable them to practice - either in their profession or a related profession - than it does to train a new Canadian nurse or physician.

Figure 3.14 Proportion of Health Occupations and the General Population, by Ethnic Group, Canada, 2001

Figure 3.14

Notes: Respondents could enter more than one category/country.

Census categories for ethnic origin:

  • Oceania: Fijian
  • Latin/Central/South America: Latin/Central/South American, Chilean, Mexican, Salvadorian, Peruvian, Columbian
  • West Asian: Iranian, Armenian, Turk, Fagan
  • African: African, Black, Somali, South African, Ghanaian, Ethiopian
  • Arab: Lebanese, Arab, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Iraqi, Palestinian, Algerian
  • Other European: Jewish, European
  • Caribbean: Jamaican, Haitian, West Indian, Guyanese, Trinidadian/Tobagonian, Barbadian, Caribbean
  • South Asian: East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Punjabi, South Asian, Tamil, Bangladeshi
  • Northern European: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Swiss, Icelandic, Scandinavian
  • Aboriginal: North American Indian, Metis, Inuit
  • East and Southeast Asian: Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, Cambodian, Laotian
  • Southern European: Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Croatian, Yugoslav, Serbian, Macedonian, Maltese, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Albanian
  • Eastern European: Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Hungarian (Magyar), Romanian, Czech, Slovak, Czechoslovakian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian
  • Western European: German, Dutch (Netherlands), Austrian, Belgian, Australian, Flemish
  • French: French, Acadian
  • North American: Canadian, American (USA), Quebecois, Newfoundlander
  • British Isles: English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, British

Source: Census of the Population, 2001, Statistics Canada

The federal government recognizes its role in supporting the important contribution that internationally educated health providers make to the Canadian health care system. Federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions across Canada have taken a number of steps to make it easier for immigrants to obtain the assessment and extra training they need to work in Canada. For example, in 2005 the Government of Canada allocated $75 million over five years for the Internationally Educated Health Professionals Initiative and another $68 million over six years to facilitate the assessment and recognition of foreign credentials. Education programs have been developed for internationally educated health providers, as well as faculty development programs to ensure that faculty members working with internationally educated health providers have the tools to support the specific needs of immigrant providers. In addition, jurisdictions such as Ontario and British Columbia have developed one-stop centres where internationally educated health providers can obtain the information they need to work in those provinces. Citizenship and Immigration Canada also offers international students graduating from Canadian programs permits to work for up to two years after graduation, to allow them to gain work experience and provide an incentive to apply for permanent residence and work in Canada.

Toward Principles of Ethical Recruitment of Domestic and Internationally Educated Health Providers

While internationally educated health providers clearly benefit health care systems in Canada, they - like other immigrants - also often contribute economically and in other ways to their home countries. As the Economist (January 5th to 11th, 2008) noted in an article supporting migration, "Many return home with new skills, savings, technology and bright ideas. Remittances to poor countries in 2006 were worth at least $260 billion - more, in many countries, than aid and foreign investment combined. Letting in migrants does vastly more good for the world's poor than stuffing any number of notes into Oxfam tins."

The Commonwealth Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Workers notes that "international recruitment provides many health workers with opportunities to develop their careers, gain valuable experience and improve living conditions for themselves and their families" but that it has also resulted in "negative experiences for others".

As the following CIHI table, shows, international medical graduates in Canada come primarily from the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Ireland, Egypt and the United States, while the most common countries of graduation for nurses were the Philippines (29.3% of all internationally educated regulated nurses), the United Kingdom (19.8%) and the United States (6.6%).

Table 2.5 Canada's Internationally Educated Health Care Professionals, 2006
Country 2006 Count
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) Registered Nurses (RNs) Physicians Occupational Therapists (OTs) Total

 Licensed Practical Nurses: Value suppressed in accordance with CIHI privacy policy; cell value is from 1 to 4
 Value suppressed to ensure confidentiality; cell value is 5 or greater

Philippines 177 6,102 224 45 6,548
United Kingdom 424 3,556 2,122 108 6,210
India 39 1,104 1,334 78 2,555
South Africa 10 211 1,939 28 2,188
United States 146 1,273 465 103 1,987
Ireland Licensed Practical Nurses: Value suppressed in accordance with CIHI privacy policy; cell value is from 1 to 4 132 1,092 19 Value suppressed to ensure confidentiality; cell value is 5 or greater
Hong Kong 72 936 202 25 1,235
Poland 34 670 410 0 1,114
France 0 398 428 Licensed Practical Nurses: Value suppressed in accordance with CIHI privacy policy; cell value is from 1 to 4 Value suppressed to ensure confidentiality; cell value is 5 or greater
Egypt 0 18 563 0 581
Australia 9 363 176 6 554
Jamaica 24 351 182 0 557
Pakistan 12 131 364 5 512
New Zealand 9 231 100 17 357
Germany Value suppressed to ensure confidentiality; cell value is 5 or greater 197 120 Value suppressed to ensure confidentiality; cell value is 5 or greater 331
Other Countries 267 4,163 3,959 82 8,471
Total 1,232 19,836 13,680 524 35,272

LPNs and OTs: Quebec data were not available and are therefore excluded from this analysis.
OTs: Findings do not include data from Alberta and Nova Scotia, as a country of graduation is not collected.

Sources: Regulated Nurses Database, Canadian Institute for Health Information; Scott's Medical Database, Canadian Institute for Health Information; and Occupational Therapists Database, Canadian Institute of Health Information, 2006.

When the source countries of Canada's internationally educated health care providers are compared with the World Health Organization list of countries that have a critical shortage of health care providers, there are three from which Canada draws a significant number of people: the Philippines, India and Pakistan. However, it should be noted that the Philippines over produces nurses for export.

In terms of establishing principles for ethical recruitment, Canada supports the ethical principles in the Commonwealth Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Workers. The Commonwealth Code of Practice, while not a legal entity, provides a set of guidelines for countries involved in international recruitment initiativesFootnote 2.

4. Comprehensive Approaches to Self-Sufficiency

To develop and maintain a stable health workforce, and avoid cycles of undersupply and oversupply that a variety of health care professions have experienced over the years, Canadian jurisdictions must redefine self-sufficiency to include a range of strategies that will help balance the responsibility to educate enough health care providers to meet Canadian population health needs with the responsibility to integrate skilled immigrants into the workforce (RCPSC, 2007). Simply adding more providers is unsustainable economically and demographically. Simply producing more of the same will not result in a workforce that is sufficiently flexible to adapt to evolving population health needs, new treatments and technologies, or new models of service delivery. More are not enough. In addition to producing more health care providers, HHR planners must be able to understand and project health needs and develop policies that will attract and retain knowledgeable providers, make effective use of their skills, and lead to more efficient health care services.

While attention must be paid to producing the workforce of tomorrow, "equal attention must be given to maximizing the skills of existing human resources" (Vaughan, 2006). Achieving self-sufficiency will depend on our ability to understand population health needs as well as the impact of factors such as age, gender, practice patterns, technology, and career goals. It will also depend on our ability to manage demand, to continually retrain and re-skill the workforce to meet evolving population health needs and to implement innovative service delivery models that make optimal use of health workforce knowledge and skills. Achieving self-sufficiency will require close collaboration among governments that pay for health care services, health care organizations that employ the health workforce, education systems that prepare providers, as well as professions and their associations. All stakeholders must work together to build a stable workforce.

Redefining Self-sufficiency

Given the broad range of factors that shape the health workforce, the Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources has developed the following definition for Pan-Canadian self-sufficiency in HHR as well as actions required to achieve it:

Self-sufficiency in health human resources is the ability to attract, develop and retain the right supply and mix of skilled health care providers working within each jurisdiction's service delivery models to provide high quality, timely, safe care that meets the population's changing health needs.

Achieving Pan-Canadian self-sufficiency in HHR requires:

  • greater capacity to define and measure population health needs;
  • medium and long term planning based on population health needs and service delivery models;
  • jurisdictions to balance their responsibility to educate enough health care providers to meet the population's health needs with their responsibility to provide opportunities for skilled immigrants who choose to make their home in Canada and their responsibility as Global Citizens to not intentionally weaken other countries' health care systems;
  • flexible, interprofessional education programs that support life-long learning, retraining and career development;
  • deployment strategies that encourage appropriate distribution of health care providers across and within jurisdictions including Aboriginal communities;
  • healthy work environments based on collaboration and mutual respect where health care professions can practice to their full scope of practice; and
  • attraction, retention and exit strategies to ensure optimal job satisfaction and use of health care providers' knowledge and skills throughout their career life cycle.

Jurisdictions across Canada, in consultation and collaboration with stakeholders, are already using a combination of strategies to be more self-sufficient - including producing more health care providers, retaining more providers in Canada, managing demand, developing and implementing new service delivery models, redesigning work, and improving workplaces.

Each jurisdiction will continue to make its own decisions about its workforce, its population's health needs, its service delivery models, and its responsibilities for educating health care providers (including the responsibility to educate health care providers for jurisdictions that do not have their own education programs).

The federal, provincial and territorial governments continue to work together to:

  • develop forecasting models and tools;
  • explore the demographics of the workforce in terms of supply, as well as population demographics related to demand;
  • develop a consistent approach to collecting and analyzing data on the workforce;
  • evaluate new roles and career paths;
  • identify and share promising strategies and best practices in creating a more stable workforce and achieving self-sufficiency; and
  • develop recognition agreements that support mobility of providers within Canada;
  • agree on ethical recruitment principles;

In addition, governments should continue to work with the education system, employers and the health professions to:

  • understand and measure the changes occurring in practice patterns;
  • address capacity issues for all players within the health education system, including the potential for private health education programs to address this issue;
  • develop measures to attract students with the characteristic indicators of those most likely to complete their training, stay in health care, and have long, satisfying careers;
  • develop new models of education that support a more flexible, adaptable workforce and reflect population health needs;
  • develop, test and promote new service delivery models, deployment strategies and roles;
  • develop innovative, effective recruitment and retention strategies; and
  • continue to identify and implement solutions to the barriers preventing Aboriginal peoples and other under-represented groups from seeking out and committing to health careers within health systems in Canada.  

References

  • Barer, M.L., Robert G. Evans, and Clyde Hertzman. (1995) Avalanche or glacier: Health care and the demographic rhetoric. Canadian Journal on Aging. 1995;14(2). 
  • Canadian Institute of Health Information. (2007) Canada's Health Care Providers.
  • Canadian Institute of Health Information. (2007) Supply, Distribution and Migration of Canadian Physicians, 2006. Ottawa.
  • Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association. (June 2005) Toward a Pan-Canadian Planning Framework for Health Human Resources: A Green Paper.
  • Canadian Medical Association Physician Resource Evaluation Template (PRET)
  • Commonwealth Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Workers. (2003) Adopted at the Pre-WHA Meeting of Commonwealth Health Ministers 2003, Geneva on Sunday 18 May 2003.
  • Dreesch N. (2007) Concept Note: Governance and Planning for Self-Sufficiency in HR Development. World Health Organization.
  • Fries JF. (2005) Compressing Morbidity. The Milbank Quarterly. 2005;83(4).
  • Health Action Lobby (HEAL) Group. (2006) Core Principles and Strategic Directions for a Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Plan.
  • Health Council of Canada. (2005) Modernizing the Management of Health Human Resources in Canada: Identifying Areas for Accelerated Change.
  • Joint Learning Initiative. (2004) Human Resources for Health - Overcoming the Crisis. United Nations Global Health Trust.
  • Lewis, S. Imagining the Future: Toward a Scope of Practice Policy for Tomorrow's Health System. Paper prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, May 2006.
  • National Health Service. (2002) HR in the NHS Plan: More staff working differently. United Kingdom.
  • New Brunswick. (2007) Our Action Plan to be Self-sufficient in New Brunswick.
  • Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2006) Laying the Foundation for Change: A Progress Report on Ontario's Health Human Resources Initiatives.
  • Physician Human Resource Committee Working Group on Postgraduate Allocations. (2004) Factors Affecting the Supply and Distribution of Physicians in Ontario in 2004: Implications for the Post-Graduate Training System.
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. (April 2006) RCPSC statement on appropriate physician resources for Canada: toward achieving responsible self-sufficiency.
  • Vaughn, PW. Competency-based Health Human Resources Planning: Forging a Citizen-centric Approach. Health Human Resources Paper prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. September 2006.
  • Xhafa E. (2007) Building National, Self-Sufficient Health Systems - Facing the Challenge of the Global Health Workers' Shortage.

Appendix A

Statistical Overview of Recent Changes in Key Health Professions

National Physician Data Overview in Canada from 2002 to 2006
  Canada
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Percent Change From 2002
Total Number of Physicians 59,412 59,454 60,612 61,622 62,307 5%
    Family Medicine 30,258 30,662 31,094 31,633 31,989 6%
    Specialist 29,154 28,792 29,518 29,989 30,318 4%
Average Age 48 48 49 49 49 3%
    Family Medicine 47 47 48 48 48 4%
    Specialist 49 50 50 50 50 2%
Sex
    Male 41,024 40,752 41,071 41,375 41,379 1%
      Family Medicine 19,444 19,568 19,555 19,693 19,674 1%
      Specialist 21,580 21,184 21,516 21,682 21,705 1%
    Female 18,338 18,602 19,365 19,961 20,646 13%
      Family Medicine 10,765 11,000 11,393 11,698 12,094 12%
      Specialist 7,573 7,602 7,972 8,263 8,552 13%
Specialty
    Family Medicine 30,258 30,662 31,094 31,633 31,989 6%
    Medical Specialists            
      Clinical Specialists 19,898 19,758 20,289 20,653 20,876 5%
      Laboratory Specialists 1,432 1,412 1,426 1,436 1,453 1%
    Surgical Specialists 7,781 7,584 7,769 7,866 7,961 2%
    Medical Scientists 43 38 34 34 28 -35%
Place of M.D. Graduation
    Canadian 45,609 45,737 46,727 47,490 48,003 5%
         Family Medicine 23,159 23,350 23,695 23,988 24,117 4%
         Specialists 22,450 22,387 23,032 23,502 23,886 6%
    Foreign 13,581 13,443 13,579 13,715 13,680 1%
         Family Medicine 6,922 7,090 7,142 7,264 7,306 6%
         Specialists 6,659 6,353 6,437 6,451 6,374 -4%
Migration
Total Physicians Moving Between Jurisdictions 867 690 768 634 717 -17%
    Family Medicine 433 380 418 372 356 -18%
    Specialists 434 310 350 262 361 -17%
Moved Abroad 480 295 232 186 207 -57%
    Family Medicine 140 106 89 87 77 -45%
    Specialists 340 189 143 99 130 -62%
Returned From Abroad 291 240 317 247 238 -18%
    Family Medicine 103 100 103 89 81 -21%
    Specialists 188 140 214 158 157 -16%

Source: CIHI, Supply, Migration and Distribution of Physicians in Canada, 2007

Supply of Physicians across Canada from 2002 to 2006
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Percent Change From 2002
Alberta 5,637 5,801 5,953 6,219 6,574 16.6%
British Columbia 8,243 8,348 8,257 8,507 8,635 4.8%
Manitoba 2,077 2,063 2,078 2,111 2,125 2.3%
New Brunswick 1,185 1,224 1,262 1,295 1,325 11.8%
Newfoundland and Labrador 929 975 992 994 1,018 9.6%
Northwest Territories 46 43 51 44 48 4.3%
Nova Scotia 1,943 1,958 2,000 2,039 2,049 5.5%
Nunavut 10 10 7 14 11 10.0%
Ontario 21,735 21,738 22,067 22,237 22,141 1.9%
Prince Edward Island 191 195 210 199 207 8.4%
Quebec 15,800 15,518 16,145 16,354 16,533 4.6%
Saskatchewan 1,564 1,526 1,529 1,545 1,571 0.4%
Yukon 52 55 61 64 70 34.6%
National 59,412 59,454 60,612 61,622 62,307 4.9%

Source: CIHI, Supply, Migration and Distribution of Physicians in Canada, 2007

Supply of Family Physicians, Canada 2002 to 2006
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Percent Change From 2002
Alberta 3,020 3,151 3,200 3,364 3,567 18.1%
British Columbia 4,541 4,629 4,544 4,736 4,731 4.2%
Manitoba 1,073 1,075 1,079 1,103 1,096 2.1%
New Brunswick 700 738 755 766 793 13.3%
Newfoundland and Labrador .. .. 513 508 526 ..
Northwest Territories 30 29 37 30 35 16.7%
Nova Scotia 1,007 1,038 1,081 1,102 1,120 11.2%
Nunavut .. .. .. 1 1 ..
Ontario 10,242 10,410 10,659 10,654 10,637 3.9%
Prince Edward Island 119 121 131 123 127 6.7%
Quebec 7,917 7,844 8,165 8,298 8,390 6.0%
Saskatchewan .. .. 868 870 894 ..
Yukon 48 51 55 57 63 31.3%
National 30,258 30,662 31,094 31,633 31,989 5.7%

Source: CIHI, Supply, Migration and Distribution of Physicians in Canada, 2007

Government Funded 1st Year Medical Education Seats by Province and Territory, Canada 2002 to 2006
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Percent Change From 2002
Alberta 192 231 231 229 221 15.1%
British Columbia 203 185 227 247 268 32.0%
Manitoba 91 81 84 101 100 9.9%
New Brunswick 55 63 61 75 71 29.1%
Newfoundland and Labrador 46 45 50 46 54 17.4%
Northwest Territories/Nunavut 2 2 1 2 4 100.0%
Nova Scotia 74 73 81 74 82 10.8%
Ontario 620 629 649 720 754 21.6%
Prince Edward Island 5 8 10 8 10 100.0%
Quebec 635 681 739 759 791 24.6%
Saskatchewan 58 60 57 69 64 10.3%
Yukon 3 .. 2 .. 2 -33.3%
National 1,984 2,058 2,192 2,330 2,421 22.0%

Source: AFMC, Canadian Medical Education Statistics, 2007

Supply of Registered Nurses, Canada 2002 to 2006
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Percent Change From 2002
Alberta 23,377 23,964 25,600 26,355 25,881 10.7%
British Columbia 27,901 27,711 28,289 27,814 28,840 3.4%
Manitoba 9,942 10,034 10,628 10,811 10,902 9.7%
New Brunswick 7,364 7,186 7,361 7,507 7,680 4.3%
Newfoundland and Labrador 5,442 5,430 5,452 5,496 5,515 1.3%
Northwest Territories/Nunavut 760 672 930 957 1,033 35.9%
Nova Scotia 8,419 8,498 8,602 8,733 8,790 4.4%
Ontario 78,737 85,187 86,099 89,429 90,061 14.4%
Prince Edward Island 1,293 1,373 1,377 1,443 1,428 10.4%
Quebec 59,193 62,494 63,455 63,827 64,014 8.1%
Saskatchewan 8,257 8,503 8,481 8,549 8,480 2.7%
Yukon 272 290 283 302 324 19.1%
National 230,957 241,342 246,557 251,223 252,948 9.5%

Source: Highlights from the Regulated Nursing Workforce in Canada, 2006

Supply of Occupational Therapists, Canada 2002 to 2005
  2002 2003 2004 2005 Percent Change From 2002
Alberta 1,000 1,126 1,204 1,242 24.2%
British Columbia 1,275 1,309 1,366 1,434 12.5%
Manitoba 360 433 443 456 26.7%
New Brunswick 201 228 239 245 21.9%
Newfoundland and Labrador 141 145 146 129 -8.5%
Northwest Territories 10 13 13 10 0.0%
Nova Scotia 255 276 283 309 21.2%
Nunavut .. .. .. ..  
Ontario 3,540 3,803 3,905 4,002 13.1%
Prince Edward Island 38 34 35 33 -13.2%
Quebec 2,749 2,877 3,126 3,288 19.6%
Saskatchewan 202 211 214 217 7.4%
Yukon 12 7 10 13 8.3%
National 9,783 10,462 10,984 11,378 16.3%

Source: CIHI, Workforce Trends of Occupational Therapists in Canada, 2006

Supply of Pharmacists, Canada 2002 to 2005
  2002 2003 2004 2005 Percent Change From 2002
Alberta 3,086 3,185 3,333 3,504 13.5%
British Columbia 3,544 3,672 3,766 3,941 11.2%
Manitoba 1,086 1,092 1,154 1,155 6.4%
New Brunswick 551 602 613 625 13.4%
Newfoundland and Labrador 540 572 585 585 8.3%
Northwest Territories 36 20 23 25 -30.6%
Nova Scotia 988 1,011 1,014 1,065 7.8%
Nunavut 5 .. 10 16 220.0%
Ontario 9,023 9,817 10,068 10,395 15.2%
Prince Edward Island 138 149 152 160 15.9%
Quebec 6,238 6,323 6,615 6,790 8.8%
Saskatchewan 1,080 1,142 1,170 1,177 9.0%
Yukon 31 27 34 33 6.5%
National 26,346 27,612 28,537 29,471 11.9%

Source: CIHI, Workforce Trends of Pharmacists for Selected Provinces and Territories in Canada, 2006

Footnotes

Footnote 1

For F/P/T perspective on ethical recruitment please refer to the ACHDHR Discussion Paper, Toward a Policy on Ethical Recruitment of Health Providers for Canada.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

The Commonwealth Codes of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Workers (PDF Version - 135 K)

Return to footnote 2 referrer