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Nursing Retention in New Brunswick​

Category(s): Education and Training, Health
Status: Active
Principal: Ted McDonald
Project Number: P0108
Year Approved: 2023

​In the face of marked demographic changes and competition from other provinces for new nursing graduates, health authorities in New Brunswick are increasingly struggling with recruiting and retaining nurses in the province. As New Brunswick's population ages, we will see an increased demand for health services. At the same time, 41% of Registered Nurses (RNs) are 50 years or older, meaning a large proportion of NB's nurses will likely be retiring within the next 20 years. In 2023 alone, 698 RNs are expected to retire. 

Given this context, it is estimated that NB will need 520 new nurses per year to maintain the nursing workforce, more than the number of nursing graduates NB produces on a yearly basis. A previous study conducted by NB-IRDT found that although graduates from health fields had higher retention rates compared to other fields of study, in 2016 25% of university graduates from health fields had left the province within one year of graduation. This is in line with data from the New Brunswick Nurses Union that shows 20% of NB nursing graduates leaving for other provinces soon after graduation.  

​Exacerbating conditions for nurses and patients, increased workloads and longer working hours caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to poor mental health, exhaustion and extreme stress for many nurses across Canada. A survey conducted in Ontario found that 83% of RNs reported worsened mental health as a result of working on the front lines of the pandemic. This, combined with the increased risks for contracting COVID-19 and the potentially long lasting impacts of infection, has led many nurses to leave the profession. A review found that more nurses have intention to leave the profession since the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, predictors of turnover intention had shifted from measures like job satisfaction and leadership style, to stress and anxiety. 

​It is therefore crucial that the province can effectively recruit and retain enough nurses to replace those who retire, leave for another jurisdiction, or leave the profession for other reasons. It is vital to understand which NB communities and districts are experiencing more pronounced issues in retaining qualified nurses and which require concerted recruitment efforts in coming years so as to ensure equitable delivery of health services in NB.  

​This study will investigate the retention and mobility of nurses in NB over the last 10 years, identifying factors influencing their decisions to stay or leave the profession.​ 

The analysis will be based on a unique person-level dataset that links nursing graduation data, payroll data and medicare registry data to track the trajectory of NB nursing graduates from education to employment, and the employment and retention decisions of currently employed nurses. Potentially important factors include personal characteristics such as location of birth and education, working conditions and characteristics, and more general economic and health system dimensions.

1. Canadian Institute for Health Information. Impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s health care systems. 8 July 2021.