MONTREAL -- A record number of nurses were issued licences to work in Quebec in 2018-2019, according to the Quebec Order of Nurses (OIIQ).

The professional order issued 3,893 licences for that period, fourteen more than the previous record set in 2015-2016.

As well, the number of nurses employed in Quebec has gone up by 1.4 per cent over last year to 71,487.

However, despite seeing a steady increase in the number of nurses in Quebec over the last ten years, there is a very real nursing shortage in hospitals across the province, says the new president of the Quebec Order of Nurses, Luc Mathieu.

“We are faced with a paradox…and are monitoring the situation very closely and are working with stakeholders to address the issue,” says Mathieu. “Contrary to public perception, the OIIQ cannot conclude that the number of nurses in Quebec has decreased.”

The OIIQ singles out a significant contributing factor to the nursing shortage; only 60 per cent of nurses in the province work full-time. That number drops precipitously to 26 per cent for new nurses, fresh out of school.

One of the main deterrents to seeking full-time employment for nurses is the prospect of forced overtime, explains Mathieu. “Some might prefer to take a part-time job because when they add in the forced overtime, it equals a full-time job.”

The president of the order commended the MUHC for adopting a sound management strategy that doesn’t include mandatory overtime. Luc Mathieu says the McGill University hospitals often give nurses a say in their schedules and allows them to switch shifts among themselves.

Another challenge facing the profession in Quebec – more and more nursing jobs require the applicant to have a bachelor’s degree and not just a D.E.C. from a CEGEP.

Quebec is behind in that regard, with only 46 per cent of students graduating with a BSc compared to 63 – 73 per cent of nurses in other provinces, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The president of the OIIQ says he hopes Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann will follow through with her stated goal of abolishing forced overtime in hospitals. 

Mathieu says he will be working closely with schools in Quebec to ensure nurses’ training is suitable for the increasingly complex care hospitals are required to provide.