OTTAWA, ON – A staggering number of Ottawa registered practical nurses (RPNs) may leave their jobs based on poll findings showing that more than 60% surveyed are considering quitting, driven out of health care by understaffing and low wages.

In Ottawa that could mean that over 1200 RPNs currently working at the six city hospitals where the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents “are mulling over their exodus. This would be a disaster for patient care,” says Dave Verch an area RPN and the first vice-president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE). “If you add the numbers of RPNs considering leaving at area long-term care homes, several thousand of them considering whether they will continue to work as nurses. Unless the provincial government acts to deal with hazardous workloads tied to understaffing and suppressed wages at a time of high inflation, this scenario could become all too real.”

The poll, conducted by Nanos Research of behalf of CUPE and SEIU Healthcare, identifies short staffing, physically and mentally draining workloads and supressed wages as the main causes of the RPN exodus.

A majority of RPNs say they work short with 53% reporting they work short-staffed almost everyday and 74% saying they work short 3 or 4 times a week. The result of working short in their increasingly expanded role providing patient care in our hospitals is that:

  • 82 % of them experience high stress
  • 64% have trouble sleeping
  • 64% dread going to work
  • 42% suffer depression

“Stress is endemic. Trouble sleeping is pervasive. Dread is everywhere and pride is nowhere. And at 42 per cent, depression among registered practical nurses is almost more common than not. We’re here to tell the Ford government, the Ontario Hospital Association, big nursing home chains, and frankly the public, that healthcare services will get worse and wait times will grow longer if we do not address the working conditions for registered practical nurses and all nurses.” says Jackie Walker, SEIU Healthcare Nursing Division President.

Just days away from Nursing Week (May 8-14), two Ottawa-based RPNs Melanie Viau and Janette Umurungi called for an immediate solution to a looming RPN exodus that includes safe staffing, fair wages and to not appeal the court decision deeming their wage cap (Bill 124) unconstitutional.


For information contact:

Stella Yeadon        CUPE Communication   416-559-9300   [email protected]

Corey Johnson      SEIU Healthcare       416-529-8909   [email protected]