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Canada’s nursing unions launch study on the impact of private nurse agencies

headshot of Dr. Joan AlmostQueen's University School of Nursing researcher Dr. Joan Almost is collaborating with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) in a groundbreaking study aimed at comprehensively examining the utilization of agency nurses across Canada and its implications for our healthcare system.

Since the pandemic, hospital spending on agency nurses has increased by as much as 550%, making it critical to understand how private staffing agencies affect the broader picture of Canadian healthcare.

"What started as a short-term measure to fill critical staffing needs has become a growing reliance on agency nurses for every and all staffing needs. We know very little about this alarming trend. How many agencies are there? How many public dollars are going to private staffing agencies? What is the impact on patient care? We don't have these answers, and we can't let it go on unchecked," says CFNU President Linda Silas.

An expert in nursing and health quality, Dr. Almost's research focuses on practice environments within healthcare delivery, which includes studying the conditions, challenges, and factors affecting nurses in their professional roles. Previously Dr. Almost worked with the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) to release a 2021 report on the landscape of regulated nursing in Canada, highlighting gaps in our health systems and recognizing a need for a more interprofessional approach to patient care. The report was the culmination of over two years of work in her role as the Scholar in Residence with CNA.

Dr. Almost will lead the research team's mixed-method study to examine:

  • the number of private nursing agencies in Canada;
  • the number of agency nurses being utilized;
  • the average rate of pay for agency nurses;
  • the total dollars spent by provincial and territorial governments on agency nurses;
  • the total number of hours worked by agency nurses;
  • where and how agency nurses are being used;


In the coming months, the CFNU will release a report based on this study's findings, which will include key policy recommendations for government health officials.

The CFNU stands as Canada's largest nurses' organization, representing 250,000 frontline nurses across various healthcare sectors, including nursing students. The organization is dedicated to advocating for critical healthcare priorities and federal engagement in shaping the future of healthcare access.

Read the full media release on the Canadian Federation of Nurse Unions website.