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March 23, 2023

New poll: alarming number of nurses are looking for the exit sign, with early‑career nurses leading the march

Health Human Resources
Media Release

Silas: Governments must act urgently to better retain nurses and save our health care system

March 23, 2023 (Ottawa, ON) – As the health staffing crisis rages on, an alarming number of nurses across the country are looking for the exit sign. Four in 10 nurses are either intending to retire, leave their jobs, or leave the nursing profession entirely, according to a poll released today by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU).

“Canada’s nurses have been sounding the alarm on grueling and unsustainable health care working conditions for years,” said Linda Silas, CFNU President. “Solutions start with respecting nurses. Next week’s budget is an opportunity for the federal government to show they’ve been listening and introduce critical new retention initiatives that would start to pull our public health care system out of this crisis.”

Silas pointed out that nurses overwhelmingly cite high workloads and insufficient staffing levels as the top reasons they’re considering leaving. More than 75% of nurses report workplaces that are regularly overcapacity. Additionally, nurses early in their careers are struggling, with nearly half reporting symptoms of clinical burnout.

“Working short-staffed and overcapacity means nurses can’t do their jobs safely. When we can’t ensure patients are getting the care they need, it weighs heavily on both nurses and our patients,” continued Silas. “And the sustainability of our whole health care system is put at risk when an alarming one third of newer nurses say they intend to leave.”

Silas added that solutions are within reach if governments work with nurses to implement badly needed retention initiatives. Most nurses surveyed said they would consider staying in their jobs if they had access to guaranteed days off, scheduling flexibility and tax incentives.

“Health care is facing a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before, but it is not beyond repair. We just have to work together and implement retention, return and recruitment initiatives, backed by a pan-Canadian plan to address the systemic challenges facing the public health system,” said Silas. “Nurses have been telling us what they need. Now the question is whether governments are listening.”

The Canada-wide survey of 4,820 nurses was conducted by Viewpoints Research from January 16 to February 12, 2023. More comprehensive details on the survey results can be found here.


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, please contact:
Adella Khan,, 613-807-2942