Ottawa reinstates Chief Nursing Officer position amid health care staffing shortages

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced today that Leigh Chapman has been appointed Canada’s Chief Nursing Officer (CNO). The position which was eliminated a decade ago, has been reinstated amidst a health care crisis defined largely by staffing shortages. Ottawa says this assignment will be for a period of two years, with the possibility of extension.

“Improving our health care system includes addressing the shortages in health human resources we are seeing across the country. Reinstating the federal CNO recognizes the central role nurses continue to play in health care in Canada through their many contributions and expertise,” Duclos said in a statement. “Dr. Chapman will play a crucial role in stabilizing the nursing workforce, by ensuring the perspective of nurses is included at the national level, helping to shape the overall health policy work of Health Canada.”

Chapman is a registered nurse (RN) who received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto’s Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing. She was selected as the successful applicant due to her breadth of leadership experience in varied nursing environments, the statement read. Her career has included work in all domains of nursing including practice, education, research, administration, policy, and advocacy.

As Canada’s CNO, Dr. Chapman will provide strategic advice from a nursing perspective to Health Canada on priority policy and program areas, including health workforce planning and stability, long-term care, home care, palliative care, mental health, alcohol and drug use, models of care, scope of practice and competencies. She will play a convening role with provincial/territorial governments along with federal health populations, the broad range of nursing stakeholders, regulatory bodies/colleges and educators on key nursing issues and will represent the Government of Canada at public forums, both within and outside of Canada.

Canada’s first Chief Nursing Officer was appointed in 1968. In 1999, the scope of the CNO was broadened through the creation of the Office of Nursing Policy within Health Canada’s Strategic Policy Branch. The CNO position at Health Canada was eliminated in 2012, at a time when the Government was realigning resources across priorities. However, in this current environment, the CNO is viewed as an important role and has been resourced accordingly, the statement concluded.

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