EDMONTON - Unions for 25,000 Alberta nurses are urging the province to take immediate action to head off a worsening shortage of nurses in Canada's fastest growing province.

Several dozen nurses are planning a rally in front of the legislature as their unions deliver a strategy to find thousands more of the health-care professionals in the coming years.

The unions say the first step is to improve working conditions to encourage nurses nearing retirement to stay on the job longer.

The Alberta government promised during the recent provincial election campaign to start graduating 2,000 nurses a year within four years - up from roughly 1,600 annually now.

But the United Nurses of Alberta says in order for that target to be realistic, the province needs to ramp up the number of spaces in nursing schools.

The union strategy also calls for more international recruitment of nurses and an immediate audit to measure the shortage in the health-care workforce.