Nursing Practice in Rural and Remote Canada: Spotlight on Licensed/Registered Practical Nurses




Maynart, Williams

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Transformations in the healthcare system, particularly in primary healthcare (PHC) are impacting the regulated nursing workforce in Canada. This is especially the case in rural/remote communities where nurses are on the front line, facing many demands, often with sparse resources, and sometimes in communities where the population demographics are in flux. Licensed practical nurses are also known as registered practical nurses (RPNs) in Ontario. LPNs and RPNs work within healthcare teams, assessing clients and participating in duties related to health promotion and illness prevention. They may work in a range of settings, including hospitals, long term care facilities, and community health centres. Information and publications about the LPN workforce, particularly in rural areas, are scarce. This paper reports findings of an analysis of Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) Nursing Database (NDB) administrative data. Data on LPNs working in rural/remote areas for 2003 and 2010 and in all provinces and territories were examined. The purpose of this paper is to identify key characteristics and geographical distribution of the LPN workforce in rural/remote Canada, and changes in this workforce over the last decade. We also identify the potential LPN workforce engaged in primary healthcare in rural/remote Canada, and discuss implications for staff mix. The characteristics and geographical distribution of Canada’s LPNs were analyzed based on workforce numbers, demographics, employment, education, and migration. Findings indicate that the overall supply of LPNs increased between 2003 and 2010. The overall proportion of LPNs working in rural areas, however, decreased during this time. The average age of LPNs decreased while the proportion of male LPNs increased. More rural LPNs reported full-time employment status in 2010 compared to 2003. A similar trend was found for multiple employer status. The vast majority of rural LPNs reported a diploma as their entry-to-practice education and was involved in direct care. We conclude by discussing the implications of increasing proportions of LPNs in community health agency locations for workforce mix in rural settings. This analysis will assist in planning for staffing in rural and remote Canada.




Maynart, W. (2014). Nursing Practice in Rural and Remote Canada: Spotlight on Licensed/Registered Practical Nurses. [Webinar Recording].