Supply of Health Providers

Having the right supply of qualified health care providers entering the health care workforce is essential for access by Canadians to quality healthcare.

To meet this goal, the initiatives of the first five years of the Pan-Canadian Health Human Resource Strategy included the recruitment and retention of health care providers.  While the Strategy has since evolved and workforce issues are addressed in a more coordinated and integrated manner, increasing and sustaining the supply of health care providers remains important in ensuring access to appropriate, timely and effective care for Canadians. Health human resource planning must consider the design of each jurisdiction's health care system and its chosen service delivery models within the context of the following considerations:

  • Canadians' changing health needs given the demographics of our aging population, including the aging health workforce itself;
  • advances in treatment and technology that may change the type and amount of treatment patients need;
  • new service delivery models (e.g. use of interprofessional teams);
  • the distribution of the workforce across the country and within each jurisdiction, in particular, rural and remote areas; and
  • other factors including gender-differences in working patterns, and the varied reasons why people stay in or leave the health professions.

As jurisdictions design their systems to meet population health needs, the number of providers required and the way they are deployed may change.

Strategic Directions

The Strategy supports provinces and territories in having the right supply of health care providers and in developing a health workforce which uses its skills efficiently by:

  • improving health student and learner retention rates through reviewing and updating health education programs and clinical practice models to be able to better prepare the health workforce to respond to the changing health needs of the Canadian population; 
  • increasing the number of residency training positions for physicians in Canada;
  • increasing the number of internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) integrated into the Canadian health system and able to deliver care for Canadians; and,
  • improving recruitment and retention of skilled health care providers in areas of high need, including rural and remote settings.

Accomplishments within the First Five Years of the Strategy

Achievements from the first five years of the Strategy, focusing on recruitment and retention, include:

  • improved pan-Canadian health human resources data for key health professions, more cohesive collaborative approaches to HHR planning across jurisdictions;
  • improved planning among Aboriginal and official language minority communities;
  • development of more effective models of recruitment and new ways to sustain the workforce by retaining health workers; and
  • enhanced integration of immigrant health professionals by developing a common provincial and territorial approach to assessment, bridging and orientation for internationally educated health workers leading to successful integration.

Links and Resources:

Publications influencing current HHR policy development include:

Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources

Health Canada

Recent statistics on health providers in Canada:

The  Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) produces data at the national and provincial/territorial levels on different professions making up Canada's health care workforce.  Featured  reports include information on the supply, distribution and migration of professions such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, medical laboratory technologists, and medical radiation technologists.

Recent statistics on accessing health providers in Canada (Statistics Canada):

Released in July 2009,  Experiences with Primary Health Care in Canada (2008) was jointly funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Health Council of Canada and is based on the responses of more than 11,000 people aged 18 and older.

Released in June 2009,  Population with a regular medical doctor, by sex, provinces and territories and  Population with a regular medical doctor, by age group and sex (national data) provides statistics on Canadians aged 12 and over who reported having a regular medical doctor in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

Released in July 2006,  Access to Health Care Services in Canada (2001, 2003, 2005) provides updated results of the experiences of patients waiting for care and is based on 12 months of data for  2005. The Health Council of Canada also partnered with Statistics Canada in 2007 to produce the  Canadian Survey of Experiences with Primary Health Care in 2007.

Information on Health Careers in Canada

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) database is a resource for learning more about careers in Canada, including health careers, and contains information on job titles, main duties and employment requirements.  Below are some examples of health professions captured by the  National Occupational Classification - 2006.

  • Audiologists
  • Chiropractors
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Dentists
  • Dietitians
  • General Practitioners and Family Physicians
  • Health Aides
  • Health Information Management Professionals
  • Home Care Workers
  • Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Medical Laboratory Technologists
  • Medical Physicists
  • Medical Radiation Technologists
  • Midwives
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Optometrists
  • Paramedics
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Psychologists
  • Registered Nurses
  • Registered Psychiatric Nurses
  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Social Workers
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
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