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October 24, 2018

Maine makes progress on addressing 'nursing cliff,' but significant shortfall remains

Courtesy / Husson University
Courtesy / Husson University
Husson University is part of the statewide effort to meet the need for more nurses in Maine, as shown by this file photo of students being trained. The school expected an incoming fall 2018 class of 130 nursing students, a huge jump from 87 in fall 2018 and 65 the year before, according to John Champoli, Husson's vice president for enrollment management.

The Maine Nursing Action Coalition announced today that efforts to boost the number of nursing graduates statewide are paying off and have reduced the projected shortage of RNs in Maine from 3,200 to 2,700 by 2025

Even so, MeNAC and AARP Maine used today's nursing workforce update to make the point that more work needs to be done to avoid the "nursing cliff" forecast in 2017 that was based on demographics showing a high number of nurses in Maine are, or will be soon, entering retirement age.

"Through hard work and partnership with our universities, colleges, and healthcare providers we are making good progress toward our nursing education goals," said Lisa Harvey-McPherson, co-chair of MeNAC. "The response has been excellent but we still must innovate and invest to make sure Maine has the nursing workforce we need to care for our aging population."

Increases in nursing graduates

Maine's nursing programs were producing 650 new license-eligible nursing students when MeNAC produced its first nursing workforce forecast. To overcome projected shortages the state's health care leaders set a goal of increasing license-eligible graduates by 400 annually. The 800 graduates produced by the state's nursing programs last year is an increase of 150 graduates, MeNAC stated, which is 38% of the goal of graduating 400 more license-eligible nurses annually.

For more details on the MeNAC nursing workforce projections go here.

In September, the University of Maine System unveiled its Maine University Workforce Plan, which commits to doubling nursing enrollment, expanding nursing programs into high-need regions and providing free nursing education (tuition and mandatory fees covered) to qualifying students with the greatest financial need.

"In close consultation with our health care partners and our nursing faculty, Maine's universities have developed a nursing workforce plan that will establish a coordinated, statewide continuum of nursing education and student support," USM President Glenn Cummings said in a statement. "Working together we are expanding access and educating the nurses our communities need to preserve quality healthcare throughout the state."

Support voiced for Question 4

The plan includes $12 million in investments pending passage of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond, this November.

Nursing industry leaders and AARP Maine took part in today's announcement updating the nursing forecast, and urged passage of Question 4 to continue Maine's progress to meeting its nursing workforce needs.

"Maine's nursing leaders have been working closely with our public universities to increase access to nursing education," said Peggy McRae, president of OMNE Nursing Leaders of Maine. "We strongly support the Maine University Nursing Workforce Plan and endorse the proposed investments in Question 4."

Catherine Snow, president of the American Nurses Association-Maine, which represents more than 25,000 nurses across the state, agreed.

"We must grow our numbers to replace the wave of nurses approaching retirement and to meet the growing demand for care," she said. "We enthusiastically support and fully endorse the innovations and investments in the university nursing plan and urge the people of Maine to vote yes on Question 4."

Amy Gallant, advocacy director of AARP Maine, pointed out that Maine's demographic challenge is not just a workforce issue. It also relates to the future health care needs of Mainers entering their senior years.

"As our population ages and requires more complex health care, we are facing an alarming nursing shortage," she said. "We thank the University of Maine System for its leadership on the nursing crisis and urge our 230,000 members and all Maine voters to support Question 4 on the November ballot."

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