Alberta’s health workforce is made up of many different health professions. This section profiles the different health professions working in rural areas along with their numbers and growth trends over the past years. Click the expandable menu below for articles about Alberta’s rural health workforce.
The term health workforce generally refers to those individuals who provide health care to the public. This includes, physicians, nurses, allied health professionals (such as pharmacists, psychologists and physiotherapists), dentists, and technical staff (such as laboratory technicians).
Alberta’s health workforce had over 86,000 people in 2019 and was made up of many different professional groups. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is a federal agency that tracks health workforce numbers across Canada for over 30 health professions. The following figure shows the distribution of the Alberta Health Workforce in 2019.
The regulated nursing workforce makes up by far the largest group, followed by physicians, social workers and pharmacists.
Regulated nurses are comprised of 4 professional groups:
- Nurse practitioners
- Registered nurses
- Registered psychiatric nurses
- Licensed practical nurses
Within the regulated nursing workforce, two thirds are Registered Nurses (67.3%) and almost one third are Licensed Practical Nurses (29.1%). The numbers of Nurse Practitioners and Registered Psychiatric Nurses are relatively small.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information does not have numbers for Health Care Aids, who make up a growing proportion of the health workforce, especially in long-term care.
Almost four out of five health-care workers are women (78.8%). The proportions range from 39.2% for physicians to 100% of midwives. The proportion of females training to become physicians is rising, while the nursing professions are seeing an increase in males joining their ranks.
Growth Trends in Alberta’s Health Workforce from 2015-2019
Alberta has seen a steady increase in the number of health-care providers over the past few years. Regulated Nurses grew by 9.4%. Within the regulated nursing profession, Nurse Practitioners (37.9%) and Licensed Practical Nurses (25.8%) experienced the biggest workforce growth since 2015. The growth in Nurse Practitioners is important from a rural perspective as some strategies aim to specifically attract Nurse Practitioners to rural communities.
Similarly, the number of Midwives and Physician Assistants grew by 48.8% and 80%, respectively since 2015. However, their overall numbers remain low. The majority of midwives continue to practice in urban areas.
Compared to 2015, the increase in number of specialist physicians was higher (16.6%) compared to family physicians (7.4%), and the number of physicians in Alberta is now evenly split between family medicine physicians and specialists.
Allied health providers also grew over the past five years (see Figure below for details).
The increase was not only in total numbers of health-care workers, but also in the number of workers per 100,000 population. This is important – as Alberta’s population continues to grow, the health workforce supply must keep up. This means that across Alberta, more health providers are available to care for Albertans.