February 15, 2017 | last updated February 23, 2017 8:04 am

Maine faces a looming shortage of nurses

Courtesy / Saint Joseph's College
Courtesy / Saint Joseph's College
Saint Joseph's College in Standish has received a $1.5 million challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to address critical shortages in Maine's nursing workforce. The initiative is timely, given the latest Maine Nursing Forecaster showing the state will be down more than 3,000 nurses by 2025 if steps are taken to increase capacity for in-state training.

The latest Maine Nursing Forecaster predicts that the state will be down more than 3,000 nurses by 2025.

Maine Public reported that the forecast says the solution is to increase capacity for in-state nursing education and recruit out-of-state nurses.

St. Joseph's College in Standish is already moving to address critical shortages in Maine's nursing workforce, thanks to a $1.5 million Harold Alfond Foundation challenge grant that was announced in January.

The Alfond grant will be applied toward the creation of a new Center for Nursing Excellence at Saint Joseph's.

A substantial portion of Maine's nursing workforce, 43%, is at or approaching retirement age. The crisis is more pronounced among nursing educators, with 74% reaching retirement age, according to information from St. Joseph at the time of the announcement.

UNE's nursing enrollment triples

Early in 2016, the University of New England said it was also tackling health care education from a different angle, with the establishment of an online graduate degree program in health information technology. But Dr. Jennifer Morton, director of UNE's Department of Nursing, said nursing also is one of the many health professions programs offered at the university that are growing and evolving to meet the needs of the market.

"Enrollment in UNE's nursing programs has tripled in the last five years," she said in a written statement provided to Mainebiz. "Despite the rapid growth, the program remains strong: our National Council of State Boards of Nursing pass rates are well above the national average and the highest in Maine in 2016 for all programs demonstrating high quality education along with growth."

Morton said actions being taken by UNE to address the state's nursing shortage include the scheduled relaunching in fall 2017 of the university's bachelor of science nursing completion program at a 50% discount to be competitive for the working nurse.

She also noted that UNE's Department of Nursing in the last four years has received two prestigious Nurse, Education, Practice, Quality and Retention grants totaling $1.9 million to build new models of clinical education in the community.

"This releases some of the burden of hospitals and the shortage of clinical sites," she said.

Legislation seeks to enhance licensing compact

Bangor Daily News reported that Maine now graduates about 970 nurses per year, adding that state officials announced plans Tuesday to increase nurse-training opportunities within Maine, including a Maine Summit that will be hosted by the LePage administration and the University of Maine system in the coming months.

The newspaper also reported that state Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, co-chairwoman of the Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, is sponsoring a bill to enhance the National Nurse Licensing Compact, which allows nursing licenses to cross state lines.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information about steps being taken by the University of New England to address the state's shortage of nurses.


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