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September 12, 2018

UMaine System unveils five-year strategic plan to tackle nursing shortage

The University of Maine System on Wednesday said it will cover tuition and mandatory fees for nursing students in regions with the most urgent need to replace retiring nurses as part of a strategic response to the statewide workforce shortage.

By 2025, Maine is expected to face a shortfall of 3,200 nursing jobs as the workforce ages. Industry data provided by the UMaine System show that nearly half of registered nurses in midcoast and Downeast Maine are 55 and older and can be expected to retire or trim their working hours within the next decade.

To ward off the expected cliff, the University of Maine System has crafted a five-year University Nursing Workforce Plan that seeks to double nursing enrollment and bring new programs to regions where they’re needed most to replace retiring nurses.

The plan, due to be unveiled today in Augusta, will also cover tuition and mandatory fees for new, first-degree students with the greatest financial need through the Universities of Maine at Augusta, Fort Kent and Presque Isle.

“The University plan to address the nursing shortage creates a coordinated, statewide continuum of nursing education and support for students starting in high school, career-transitioning adults, and existing health care professionals,” said James H. Page, UMaine System chancellor, in a statement.

He added: “Working across our campuses and with community partners we will create the innovations and make the investments needed to build a larger, more highly qualified nursing workforce for Maine.”

Specific elements in the plan include expanding nursing in the high-need rural regions of Augusta, Brunswick, Presque Isle, Machias, Ellsworth, Rockland and Rumford.

Already this fall, University of of Maine campuses at Fort Kent and Presque Isle joined forces to launch a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in Presque Isle, set up to serve 20 students in a temporary space in Presque Isle. 

Proposed facility and health science lab and classroom improvements pending voter approval this November of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond, are part of a plan to grow nursing enrollment in Presque Isle to 100 students over five years.

In addition, University of Maine is developing a Nursing Outreach to Rural Maine Program that gives current baccalaureate degree holders a two-year path to a pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

The curriculum for that advanced-standing degree is now being tested as part of a partnership with Acadia Hospital in Bangor. UMaine currently has 23 students on an accelerated path to earning a BSN.

Launching an accelerated second-degree BSN program in Machias will provide degree-holding adults form Downeast Maine a two-year transition into a local-nursing career, according to Wednesday’s news release.

Planned campus improvements in Machias to the Science Building and the facility that will host nursing training are also pending voter approval this fall.

UMaine Augusta has already gotten the green light for its own BSN program based in Augusta and will be launching rural cohorts at UMaine Augusta Centers in Brunswick, Ellsworth, Rockland and Rumford starting in fall 2019. UMaine Augusta anticipates an enrollment of more than 400 students in Augusta, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Rockland and Rumford in five years.

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