New survey shows safe patient care declining, workplace violence increasing

CFNU President Linda Silas

June 8, 2017 (CALGARY) – A new national survey of Canada’s nurses, released today in conjunction with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions discussion paper, Enough Is Enough: Putting a Stop to Violence in the Health Care Sector, shows that the majority believe patient safety is declining, or not improving, and workplace violence in health care is a serious and growing problem. Many of those surveyed have considered a job or career change, according to survey results.

During her President’s Address at the CFNU’s Biennial Convention, Linda Silas unveiled the results of this survey of over 2,000 nurses and released the report to approximately 1,200 nurses gathered in Calgary for CFNU’s Biennium. The survey results revealed that during the past 12 months:

  • One third of nurses (34%) say that patient safety has declined where they work, 46% say it has stayed the same; just 20% say it has improved. Nurses in Ontario and Saskatchewan were more likely than those in other provinces to say their patients are not safe.
  • The majority of nurses responding (61%) say they have experienced serious problems in the workplace, related to violence, including physical assault, bullying, verbal abuse and racial/sexual harassment. By contrast, a January 2016 national poll conducted by Vector Poll found that just 15% of employees in other sectors experienced serious problems with physical assaults, verbal threats, bullying or other kinds of abuse over a two-year period.
  • A full two thirds of nurses (66%) pondered leaving their job to work for a different employer or in a different occupation. Ontario nurses are the most likely to have considered a career or job change (70%). Nurses aged 25 to 34 years are the most likely to have contemplated a job change.

The discussion paper, Enough Is Enough, raises the alarm and highlights the need for urgent action to increase nurse staffing levels and implement an action plan to keep nurses safe on the job.

“Enough is enough,” said CFNU President Linda Silas. “We know that the cost of workplace violence in Ontario hospitals alone is $23.8 million annually. These funds would be better invested in patient care and safety for both our patients and our nurses.”

She adds that as the acuity level of hospital patients continues to rise, cuts to nursing positions are driving nurses to rethink their career choice, just as they are needed most. “The CFNU is calling for a zero-tolerance approach to violence in health care workplaces,” Silas said.


The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses. The CFNU has been advocating for national discussions on key health priorities, such as a national prescription drug plan, a comprehensive approach to long-term and continuing care, greater attention to health human resources, and federal government engagement on the future of public health care.

For more information, contact:

Emily Doer, CFNU Communications Officer, (613) 807-1340

David Cournoyer, Communications Advisor, United Nurses of Alberta, (780) 913-1563

David Climenhaga, Communications Advisor, United Nurses of Alberta, (780) 717-2943