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September 14, 2023

Canada’s nursing unions launch study on the impact of private nurse agencies

Media Release

Silas: With skyrocketing costs and growing use, analysis of agency nurses is needed.

September 14, 2023 (Ottawa, ON) – The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) is launching a study to investigate the rising use of agency nurses across Canada and its implications on the health care system.

“What started as a short-term measure to fill critical staffing needs has become a growing reliance on agency nurses for every and all staffing needs,” explains CFNU President Linda Silas. “We know very little about this alarming trend. How many agencies are there? How many public dollars are going to private staffing agencies? What is the impact on patient care? We don’t have these answers, and we can’t let it go on unchecked.”

The CFNU is partnering with Queen’s University on a Research Agreement to conduct this mixed methods study, led by Dr. Joan Almost. Dr. Almost is a registered nurse and professor, whose research area of expertise includes the working environment of nurses and health care quality. Dr. Almost will conduct the study with a team of researchers to provide insight into:

  • the number of private nursing agencies in Canada;
  • the number of agency nurses being utilized;
  • the average rate of pay for agency nurses;
  • the total dollars spent by provincial and territorial governments on agency nurses;
  • the total number of hours worked by agency nurses;
  • where and how agency nurses are being used;
  • key policy recommendations.

With hospital spending on agency nurses increasing by as much as 550%, Silas says it is critical to understand how private staffing agencies affect the broader picture of our public health care system.

“As we work to solve the health care crisis that’s raging across the country, analysis on agency nurses is sorely needed,” says Silas. “At the heart of this crisis are working conditions that are beyond untenable. Are private staffing agencies really solving that? We can’t continue to slap band-aids on gaping wounds – we need to follow proven sustainable pathways that retain, recruit and return nurses in the public sector.”

In the coming months, the CFNU will publish a report based on the study’s findings with key policy recommendations for provincial, territorial and federal governments.


CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing 250,000 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 please contact Adella Khan, CFNU Communications,, 613‑807-2942.