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Keywords:

  • Nurse migration;
  • nurse shortage;
  • nursing workforce

Objective. To synthesize information about nurse migration in and out of Canada and analyze its role as a policy lever to address the Canadian nursing shortage.

Principal Findings. Canada is both a source and a destination country for international nurse migration with an estimated net loss of nurses. The United States is the major beneficiary of Canadian nurse emigration resulting from the reduction of full-time jobs for nurses in Canada due to health system reforms. Canada faces a significant projected shortage of nurses that is too large to be ameliorated by ethical international nurse recruitment and immigration.

Conclusions. The current and projected shortage of nurses in Canada is a product of health care cost containment policies that failed to take into account long-term consequences for nurse workforce adequacy. An aging nurse workforce, exacerbated by layoffs of younger nurses with less seniority, and increasing demand for nurses contribute to a projection of nurse shortage that is too great to be solved ethically through international nurse recruitment. National policies to increase domestic nurse production and retention are recommended in addition to international collaboration among developed countries to move toward greater national nurse workforce self sufficiency.