Managing and sustaining an ageing nursing workforce: identifying opportunities and best practices within collective agreements in Canada

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This paper seeks to identify gaps within nursing collective agreements for opportunities to implement practices to sustain the nursing workforce.


Since the majority of nurses in Canada are unionised, some of the strategies recommended in the literature to cope with nursing shortage may not apply to unionised nurses, making collective agreements a potential source for designing practices that can mitigate the impact of ageing nurses.


Nine major collective agreements for registered nurses in each province governing the nursing employment relationship were analysed to see if different practices were already addressed in the collective agreements.


Five such practices were identified, including: providing more mentorship opportunities; encouraging nurses who are eligible to retire to remain in the nursing workforce; attracting internationally trained nurses; implementing operational changes that include process improvements or new technologies; and empowering nurses through flexibility in work schedules.


If collective agreements are silent in any of the strategies identified in the literature, health-care organisations can adopt these practices without violating the collective agreements.

Implications for nursing management

Non-unionised health-care organisations can also benefit from learning about these policies and practices to assist in managing and sustaining an ageing nursing workforce.

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