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June 29, 2018

Nurse Practitioners can be Canada’s solution to health care gaps: new study

Media Release
“Now is the time for governments across the country to plan for tomorrow’s health human resource needs.”


Friday June 29, 2018  (WINNIPEG, MB) – Canada’s health ministers and nurses union leaders gathered today in Winnipeg for the unveiling of a landmark report from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), entitled Fulfilling Nurse Practitioners’ Untapped Potential in Canada’s Health Care System. The report includes the results of the largest-ever national survey of Nurse Practitioners (NPs), shared with policy makers at the Fort Garry Hotel during the annual Federal, Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers Summit.

“NPs are the solution to Canada’s long-standing shortage of primary care providers, access and wait times issues, especially within underserved populations, communities and settings,” said Linda Silas, President of the CFNU. “The findings in this report chart a path forward for governments to tap into the potential of NPs and improve access, from primary and long-term care to mental health and acute care.”

In an effort to understand why Canada has failed to take advantage of NPs’ full potential, the CFNU commissioned this study exploring barriers to the retention and recruitment of NPs. Issues such as limited employment opportunities, inappropriate remuneration, outdated funding models, lack of interprofessional collaboration and legislative/regulatory barriers still negatively impact NPs.

“The evidence reveals that NPs improve access to holistic, cost-effective, high-quality care that reduces wait times and costs throughout the broader health system,” said Lisa Little, the study’s lead researcher. “With a supply of only about 14 NPs per 100,000 Canadians – one fifth of the per capita supply in the U.S. – there is a great potential for NPs to meet Canada’s growing health care needs.”

With a 22% pan-Canadian response rate, the national survey is the largest NP survey of its kind in Canada, including NPs from twelve provinces and territories.

“About three million people in Canada already receive care from Nurse Practitioners, but more are needed to meet the needs of the one in six Canadians without a regular health care provider, as well as our aging population and rural and remote communities,” said Silas. “Now is the time for governments across the country to plan for tomorrow’s health human resource needs.”

NPs are highly skilled autonomous practitioners with advanced education and broad scope of practice, allowing them to diagnose, treat, refer and prescribe medications. NP practice also provides a unique patient-centered approach that includes health promotion and patient education.

The full report and CIHI provincial/territorial geo-maps of primary care provider access can be viewed here.


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses. The CFNU advocates on key health priorities, such as pharmacare, health human resources, and federal engagement in the future of public health care.

For further information:

Lauren Snowball, CFNU Communications Officer, 613-868-5702, media (at)

Matt Austman, Manitoba Nurses Union Communications Officer, 204-951-9283

Read the report