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Nearly half of young Quebec nurses are leaving the profession before turning 35

Montreal, October 12, 2023 – Quebec needs to improve flexibility and working conditions to keep young nurses in the profession, according to a study published by the Montreal Economic Institute this morning.

“For every 100 nurses we train, 44 will leave the profession before their 35th birthday,” explains Emmanuelle B. Faubert, economist at the MEI and author of the publication. “The fact that young nurses are quitting en masse, indicates there is a problem with the way we treat them – particularly in their first years on the job.”

Quebec has 10.5 nurses providing direct care per 1,000 people, which is slightly below the G7 average.

In 2021, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé estimated that the shortage of nurses would grow to 28,000 by 2026, due in part to how many are leaving the profession.

The MEI’s study shows that for every 100 nurses below the age of 35 who entered the profession, an average of 44 left during the period from 2016 to 2021, up from 37 in the 2011 to 2015 period.

“Even when removing 2020 from our calculations, there is still a marked increase in the proportion of young nurses leaving the profession,” added Faubert. “This is cause for concern, as more and more nurses are nearing their retirement and we can’t seem to keep enough new ones in the system.”

Of the nurses who were considering leaving the profession, 71 per cent cited overwork as the main cause, with 58 per cent blaming the pay, according to a recent survey.

The study’s author says part of the blame resides in the tougher working conditions young nurses have to endure compared to their more senior colleagues, pointing to unfavourable scheduling practices, mandatory overtime, and more stressful working conditions.

The MEI says Bills 10 and 15 risk exacerbating current issues by making Santé Québec the sole employer for the province’s nursing professionals.

“Young nurses are fleeing the government-run system at record rates, and lawmakers’ answer is to force them to choose between staying within it or leaving the profession altogether,” concludes Faubert. “We should instead attack the problem at its roots and work to give nurses the flexibility they need to keep doing the work they trained for.”

You can consult this MEI study here.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank with offices in Montreal and Calgary. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship. 

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