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Nursing Enrollment Up 11% at Maine’s Public Universities

Maine Universities and partners are expanding pathways into Maine nursing careers following statewide summit hosted by University of Maine System and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services
to address nursing shortage projected to grow to 3,200 by 2025.

Orono, Maine — Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Robert Neely reported to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees today that a focused effort to expand nursing education in response to projected healthcare workforce shortages has expanded nursing enrollment in Maine’s public universities by 11% since the start of the decade.  Total nursing enrollment has grown from 1,734 in 2010 to 1,920 in the Fall of 2017 across all degree programs.

The expanded enrollment is part of a strategic response by Maine’s universities to trends in Maine’s nursing workforce and increasing demand for health care services across a state that has the oldest median age in the nation.  While the expansion achieved within existing university programs and resources is welcome news, it will not be enough to pull Maine back from the nursing workforce cliff that has been projected to hit the state by the middle of the next decade.

Responding to the projection that Maine faces a nursing workforce shortage of 3,200 healthcare workers by the middle of the next decade the University hosted a nursing workforce summit in October of 2017 at UMaine with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and in partnership with the Maine Nursing Action Coalition.  The summit brought together more than a hundred leaders in healthcare, education, and public policy to develop actionable steps that could increase Maine’s nursing education capacity.  

Vice Chancellor Neely updated the Board of Trustees on a number of the tangible university and policy initiatives already underway as a result of the nursing summit.  Examples of those initiatives include:

Exploration of Standardized State Nursing Curriculum:  OMNE and Maine Nursing Action Coalition members will hold a focused meeting in early 2018 to discuss opportunities for nursing curricular alignment across the state.  Practice leaders and nursing educators will be engaged in the discussion.   

University of Maine at Fort Kent Initiatives

UMFK is collaborating with the University of Maine at Presque Isle to launch a nursing program at UMPI starting in the Fall of 2018.  

UMFK has expanded nursing enrollment by more than 2,000% since 2001.  To accommodate achieved growth and to continue to expand opportunities the campus is working with providers from throughout Northern Maine to expand clinical opportunities for students in the region.

UMFK launched the Rural U Nursing Pilot Program in the Spring of 2018.  They have 20 students participating from 16 different Maine high schools from Aroostook to Cumberland Counties.  Participating students take Introduction to Professional Nursing as a two credit online course.  The early college students are introduced to the concept of professional nursing and get the opportunity to practice professional nursing skills and participate in professional nursing activities.  The course includes an in-hospital component.  Tuition is free.  

University of Maine Initiatives

The University of Maine is on target to admit another 115 first time nursing students to the School of Nursing in Orono in the Fall of 2018.  That number represents a 35% increase over the numbers that constituted stable enrollments for approximately 20 years for first time nursing students.  

UMaine is working with Bangor regional education and provider partners on a project to double clinical placements at an area health care facility.  Pending successful completion of discussions that began at the Nursing Summit the pilot will launch in the Fall of 2018 sustaining increased enrollments at UMaine into the future.  

UMaine is working to create a unique partnership with an area healthcare system with a tenure-track faculty member actively working with the provider to improve partner outcomes.  This faculty member would facilitate ongoing work that supports improved patient outcomes and creates a culture of integration and reciprocity between the two institutions.  This appointment promises to enhance the ongoing work to support student transition to practice on graduation and regional retention for new graduates.  

UMaine is making plans to pilot an accelerated Nursing Outreach to Rural Maine (NORM) program that would create a two-year pathway to a nursing degree for current baccalaureate degree holders looking to transition into a Maine career in nursing.  The pilot will be launched in Orono to utilize existing clinical simulation resources and leverage new clinical placements in the Bangor region.  Partnerships are being formed to expand the fast track pathway into nursing to the University of Maine at Machias to better serve the health care needs of Downeast Coastal Maine.  Nearly half of the registered nurses in Washington and Hancock Counties are over the age of 55 and are expected to retire in the next ten years.

UMaine and Penobscot Community Health Care have partnered on a grant submission to the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.  The grant application, which was finalized earlier in the month, seeks to increase the numbers of nurses working in rural ambulatory, public health and community based centers.  The proposal would include funding to add a full-time lecturer position in the UMaine School of Nursing to support enhancing clinical placements for undergraduate students and resources would assist nursing students who are fulfilling their community health rotations in rural areas serviced by PCHC.  

University of Southern Maine Initiatives

USM has increased the numbers of clinical groups at community hospitals this spring and offered a first-ever winter clinical placement in mental health. USM established or increased placements with providers from Augusta to Portsmouth to help students work within their own communities.  

USM has expanded its community partnership courses to include working with Partners for World Health and the VNA Home Health Hospice. These new partnerships join existing partnerships with Amistad, Bayside Community, Casco Bay Community, Dominican Republic, Healthy Aging/Elder Life, Sagamore Village, Rural Community, Kennedy Park, and L/A Community Care.

USM has recently added a clinical placement coordinator to the staff to expand clinical placements for both undergraduate and graduate students and to enhance clinical coordination throughout the region.  

USM is adding an adult gerontology acute care nursing practitioner concentration to the graduate program offerings. The graduates will be prepared to work with and serve Maine’s growing senior demographic.  York and Cumberland Counties will see Maine’s largest increase in percentage of population over the age of 65, 25.3%, by 2022.