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June 9, 2023

Canada’s nurses rally around new study on safe working hours

2023 Convention
Media Release

Silas says the bottom line is: you can’t save lives without sleep!

June 9, 2023 (Charlottetown, P.E.I.) – Over 1,000 nurses from across the country are taking action with a rally and die-in in Charlottetown today to bring attention to the dire impact the nationwide staffing shortage has on nurses and their patients.

“Nurses across the country are working record-high levels of overtime, doing their best to make sure patients get the care they need,” explained Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). “But nurses are humans, and there is a limit to how long any person can function at work without sleep, much less an ICU nurse. Over 20 hours on the job is not healthy, and it’s not safe.”

Between decades of persistent underfunding and the pressures of COVID-19, nurses have been shouldering the weight of a severely understaffed health care system. Overtime has become the standard band-aid solution to understaffing, with nurses working record-high levels of overtime in 2022.

The CFNU has launched a research project on safe working hours for nurses, to be released in the fall of 2023.

“Nurses can no longer continue holding this health care system together with overtime and determination,” said Silas. “Excessive overtime is not safe for nurses, and it’s not safe for their patients.”

Studies show known occupational health and safety risks posed by fatigue, such as slower reaction times, increased risk of medical errors and long-term health effects.

While there are formal regulations around work hours across many safety-critical industries, such as truckers and pilots, there are no federal or provincial regulations that restrict the hours a nurse can work in a 24-hour period or over a 7-day interval.

Silas noted that governments’ reliance on private nursing agencies to fill short-term staffing vacancies is unsustainable and cannot be mistaken for a solution to the nursing shortage.

“Agencies are lining their pockets with profits while bankrupting our public health systems,” said Silas. “The solutions are clear and within reach. With a pan-Canadian approach to health human resources planning and investments in proven retention solutions, we can start putting an end to this crisis.”

Nurses are expected to start today’s rally at 11:30 am, marching from the Delta Convention Centre through downtown Charlottetown to Confederation Landing, where they will stage a die-in, demonstrating the impact unsafe staffing has on nurses and patients.

“It’s time for governments to listen to nurses and give us the respect we deserve,” said Silas. “The bottom line is: you can’t save lives without sleep.”


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing 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 or to arrange an interview with CFNU President Linda Silas, please contact Adella Khan,, 613-807-2942.