Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 12(1) January 2009 .doi:10.12927/hcq.2009.21016

Canada's Health Workforce: A Snapshot

Registered nurses

  • The growth rate of this workforce was steady at close to 2% per year over six years, with a workforce of 257,961 RNs in 2007.
  • There were 782 RNs per 100,000 Canadians, a number which remained relatively steady since 2005. The highest ratio previously recorded was 824 per 100,000 in the early 1990s.
  • The average age of RNs in 2007 was 45.1, compared to 44.5 in 2003.

(Regulated Nurses: Trends, 2003 to 2007, Canadian Institute for Health Information)

Occupational therapists (OTs)

  • Based on an average age of 38.9, OTs were a young health profession that was predominantly female (92.5%) in 2007.
  • 8.1% of the OT workforce was educated outside of Canada, with just less than half of these having obtained their education in either the U.S. or the U.K.
  • 41% of OTs worked fewer than 36 hours per week.

(Workforce Trendsof Occupational Therapists in Canada, 2007, Canadian Institute for Health Information)

Pharmacists (in eight provinces)

  • Pharmacists in selected provinces were mostly female. Nova Scotia had the highest proportion of female pharmacists (68.7%), while Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest (48.1%).
  • More than 75% of pharmacists worked in the community setting, while fewer than 20% worked in hospitals.
  • 64% of pharmacists younger than 40 in 2007 were female, compared to only 27% of pharmacists 60 and older.

(WorkforceTrends of Pharmacists for Selected Provinces and Territories in Canada, 2007, Canadian Institute for Health Information)


  • There were 63,682 active physicians in Canada in 2007; this represented an increase of 7.1% between 2003 and 2007. Over the same five-year period, the Canadian population increased by 4.2%.
  • The total ratio of physicians to 100,000 population increased from 187 in 2003, to 192 in 2007.
  • For the fourth year in a row, the number of physicians returning from abroad was greater than the number moving abroad (142 versus 122).
  • In 2007, 56% of family physicians younger than 40 were women, compared to 16% of family physicians 60 and older.
  • The average age of doctors in Canada continued to rise, reaching 49.6 in 2007. The average age of family physicians was 48.9 and the average of specialists was 50.5.

(Supply, Distributionand MigrationofCanadianPhysicians, 2007, Canadian Institute for Health Information)


  • The physiotherapist workforce increased 11% over the past six years from 14,471 in 2001, to 16,108 in 2006, compared to growth in the general population of 5.2%.
  • Physiotherapists were predominantly female (78.7%).
  • 40% of physiotherapists worked in a hospital setting, while 60% worked in professional practice, community or other settings.

(Workforce Trends of Physiotherapists in Canada, 2007, Canadian Institute for Health Information)


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