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March 14, 2024

Crushing overcapacity pressures threaten to worsen nursing shortage and patient safety

Media Release

Silas: Safe nurse-patient ratios critically needed to bring down the pressure and protect patient care

March 14, 2024 (Ottawa, ON) – Persistent staffing shortages have left nurses bearing the crushing weight of overcapacity health care systems across the country. Nurses are chronically working without sufficient resources, with seven in 10 nurses reporting workplaces that are regularly overcapacity in a recent Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) survey.

“Day in and day out, nurses come face to face with what it means to not have enough staff or resources to ensure patients get the care they deserve,” said Linda Silas, CFNU President. “Staffing is a matter of safety. The extreme conditions nurses are working under are not safe for them, and it’s certainly not safe for their patients.”

Facing grueling working conditions and an uphill battle for appropriate staffing, one in two nurses has experienced a “near-miss” or a patient safety incident in the past six months. Most point to inadequate staffing as the cause.

“This is every nurse’s worst fear,” Silas explained. “Nurses care deeply about their patients. The weight of these heartbreaking conditions has a profound impact on them, and it’s pushing them out of the profession.”

Alarmingly, one in four nurses experiencing chronic overcapacity at work are considering leaving their jobs. Nurses overwhelmingly cite high patient loads and insufficient staffing levels as the top reasons they would consider leaving their workplace or the profession altogether.

“Retaining nurses and protecting patient safety go hand in hand. Safe staffing models like mandatory nurse-patient ratios empower nurses to give patients the quality care they deserve while creating manageable workloads and better work-life balance for frontline nurses,” explained Silas. “Health systems with ratios in place, like California, see improved outcomes for patients and higher job satisfaction. B.C. and Nova Scotia have committed to safe staffing ratios, and it’s time for every province and territory to follow suit.”

The Canada-wide survey of 5,595 nurses was conducted by Viewpoints Research from January 16 to February 9, 2024. More comprehensive details on the survey results can be found here.


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing 250,000 frontline unionized nurses and nursing students in every sector of health care – from home care and LTC to community and acute care – and advocating on key priorities to strengthen public health care across the country.

For more information please contact Adella Khan, CFNU Communications,, 613‑807-2942.