Career transitions of inactive nurses: A registration database analysis (1993–2006)
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BACKGROUND: One important strategy to address nursing shortages is to tap into the pool of licensed nurses who are not currently working in nursing and induce them to return to the nursing labour market. However, there is a paucity of research examining their likelihood of return to the active labour market. OBJECTIVE: Analyze the career transitions of nurses registered with the College of Nurses Ontario but not working in the province's nursing labour market to determine the proportion of these nurses rejoining the active nursing workforce and examine the variation by inactive sub-category and age group. DESIGN: Quantitative analysis of a linked longitudinal database for all those registered with the College of Nurses of Ontario for the years 1993-2006. METHODS: Registration records of all 215,687 nurses registered at any time in those years were merged by their unique registration number. Each nurse was placed for each year into an employment category. Two groups of nurses were defined: active (registered, working in nursing in Ontario) and inactive (registered, not working in nursing in Ontario). Inactive nurses were then sub-categorized into five mutually exclusive sub-categories: 'not working and seeking nursing employment', 'working in non-nursing and seeking nursing employment', 'not working and not seeking nursing employment', 'working in non-nursing and not seeking nursing employment' and 'working outside Ontario'. One-year career movements of nurses were tracked by generating 13 year-to-year transition matrixes. RESULTS: In the short-term, inactive nurses seeking a nursing job had the highest average rate of return to the active workforce (27.3-30.8%), though they might become high risk of leaving the profession if they do not find employment in a timely manner. Inactive nurses not seeking nursing employment are a heterogeneous group, and include nurses on leave who are likely to subsequently rejoin the active workforce should appropriate opportunities arise. The proportion of nurses rejoining the active workforce decreased with age. CONCLUSION: Because 'inactive' nurses are a heterogeneous group, their optimal reintegration to the nursing workforce requires governments, professional associations and employers to work collaboratively to design targeted and timely recruitment strategies to avoid the permanent loss of skilled nursing resources.
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