Road to recovery: Cancer in the COVID-19 era

Job vacancies are not being filled

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the health workforce is the sheer fact that there is more to do and fewer people available to do it. Ongoing staffing shortages and constant overtime, together with difficulties recruiting and retaining people in certain medical professions during the pandemic, are increasing the pressure on a system already under strain.

In July to September (Q3) of 2021, nearly 13% of all job vacancies in Canada were in the health and social assistance sector.1 Total vacancies in the sector climbed by 79% between July and September (Q3) 2019 and July and September (Q3) 2021.1 The three occupations within the sector with the biggest rise in vacancies over that two-year period are all related to nursing:2

Over 11,500 vacancies for registered nurses, over 11,900 vacancies for nurse aides and orderlies, over 6,500 vacancies for licensed practical nurses

Similar trends affect other positions, with vacancies on the rise for specialist physicians and allied primary care practitioners (e.g., nurse practitioners, physician assistants).3

Vacancies are also taking longer for healthcare employers to fill. In January to March (Q1) 2021, for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, half of the open positions had been vacant for 90 days or longer.1

  1. Statistics Canada. Job vacancies, third quarter 2021. Available from:
  2. Statistics Canada. The ten occupations with the largest two-year increases in job vacancies and their average offered hourly wage, third quarter of 2021. Available from:
  3. Statistics Canada. Job vacancies, proportion of job vacancies and average offered hourly wage by selected characteristics, quarterly, unadjusted for seasonality. 2022. Available from: