This study wants to draw a broad picture of the employment context for nurses in the province of Quebec and to compare it with other provinces. We found that Quebec nurses work less than nurses in the rest of Canada, in terms of effective hours worked, of contracted hours and in terms of overtime worked. That weak work intensity in Quebec could be explained by a larger proportion of part time nurses and by the longer and more frequent sick leaves. We also looked at the shortage of nurses, as computed by the department of Health and social services (Ministère de la Santé et des services sociaux). We found that the so-called shortage of nurses did not represent the needs of workers to give more services to the patients, but the needs of workers to eliminate extra overtime worked by nurses. We also found that methodological choices made by the department lead to an overestimation of 16% to 18% of the effective shortage. Three scenarios of increased work effort show that it would be possible to reduce the shortage by 20% to 30%, including the methodological correction on the computations.

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