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Maine’s public universities anticipate record year for nursing applicants as state faces shortage, but investments needed to meet demand

University’s bond request, which includes proposed investments to expand nursing education capacity, remains a pending item before the Maine Legislature

ORONO – As an aging Maine confronts a nursing workforce crisis, the state’s public universities are anticipating another year of record applications in keeping with a four-year growth trend of nearly 20 percent  across the System. The University of Maine System is leading state efforts to build new partnerships and leverage existing resources to create more nursing education capacity while also achieving an 11 percent increase in public university nursing enrollment over the course of the decade. Despite advancements, constraints on facilities, faculty, and clinical placements prevent the universities from offering enrollment to as many applicants as would be needed annually to begin to turn around the state’s shortage of nurses, which on current trends is projected to swell to 3,200 by 2025.   Applicant qualifications, missing prerequisites, and incomplete applications are also factors when making enrollment decisions. Nursing leaders from the universities will brief the Board of Trustees at its May 21 meeting at the University of Maine at Fort Kent on developing collaborations and nursing program advancements that have been achieved since the nursing summit hosted by the University of Maine System, the Maine Department of Human Services, and the Maine Nursing Action Coalition in October of last year. A $75 million University of Maine System workforce infrastructure investment bond with bipartisan support remains a pending matter at the Legislature, which adjourned earlier this month without taking up bond proposals.  The proposal includes projects that would expand Maine’s capacity for nursing education. University of Southern Maine The University of Southern Maine, the state’s largest producer of new nurses, has received nearly 500 applications, including 160 for an accelerated BSN program that starts later this month and is open to those who already have a four-year degree. The University investment proposal would allow USM to double the beds in its nursing simulator so more students could get hands-on experience in acute-care situations before beginning their clinical placements. Northern Maine Nursing:  A UMFK and UMPI Partnership Maine’s nursing shortages are particularly challenging in rural Maine. The University of Maine at Fort Kent has received 370 applicants including 53 for an accelerated BSN.  Were it to be approved, state funding would be matched by other public and private monies to support the University of Maine at Fort Kent efforts to partner with Presque Isle to bring four-year nursing to central Aroostook County. University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias The University of Maine School of Nursing had already received 1,308 applicants as of May 1 for its Bachelors of Nursing (BSN) program but has only 110 openings for Fall enrollment.  UMaine’s Nursing Outreach to Rural Maine initiative includes plans to bring an accelerated RN program to Washington County through the University of Maine at Machias that would create a two-year pathway to a career in nursing for current baccalaureate degree holders. The planned expansion in nursing education capacity is resource-dependent, requiring simulation space to serve students from the region. University of Maine at Augusta 277 aspiring nurses applied to the University of Maine at Augusta through May 1, 2018.  The university has increased its incoming class size by 25 percent to 80 seats as part of a commitment by the System to help Maine better meet its nursing workforce needs. “The University’s resource challenge is Maine’s workforce challenge which is especially acute in our rural regions. These are great paying Maine careers in every Maine community,” said Chancellor James Page. “As we work as One University and with our employer partners to address the nursing shortage, we also look to the Legislature to support this needed investment in our infrastructure so we can continue to expand enrollment to meet student demand for our nursing programs and the demand from hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities for skilled four-year nurses.” This month, the University of Maine System graduated 330 nurses and more than 500 other students earned their degrees or certificates in other disciplines critical to the health of Maine’s communities, including addiction rehabilitation, dental hygiene and physical therapy assistants. For more information about the University’s bond request and how it will expand workforce development capacity in nursing and other in-demand, high-growth STEM occupations, visit www.maine.edu/invest.

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