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Universities and Partners Release Maine Nursing Shortage Analysis In Advance of Nursing Summit

 Nearly half the RNs working in Midcoast and Downeast Maine
expected to retire or reduce work hours over the next ten years.

 Southern Maine and Penobscot / Pisataquis Region most challenged by aging population
and increased demand for residential long-term and home-based healthcare.  

FREEPORT, MAINE – The Maine Nursing Action Coalition (MeNAC) has released regionally updated data and projections tied to a shortage of registered nurses in Maine that is expected to grow to 3,200 by the year 2025.  The presentation of the data was made at a joint meeting of OMNE — Nursing Leaders of Maine and ANA-Maine as leaders in healthcare, education, and public policy prepare for a statewide summit hosted by the University of Maine System and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services focused on increasing Maine’s supply of nursing professionals.

The updated analysis was developed for MeNAC based on statewide information included in the 2016 Maine Nursing Forecaster to inform decision making and improve awareness of how Maine’s aging population, anticipated retirements among healthcare professionals, and existing constraints in nursing education could result in nursing workforce shortages by region and by setting.  The regional data along with findings and recommendations developed by MeNAC workgroups formed earlier in the year will inform the October 27th Nursing Summit at the University of Maine.

Key findings from the updated data include:

  • Coastal Maine Facing a Wave of Retirements:  Nearly half of the RNs in the Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, and Waldo County Region (49%) and the Hancock and Washington County Region (48%) are over the age of 55 and are expected to retire or reduce hours in the next ten years.   The wave approaching retirement is smaller in percentage terms in the York and Cumberland County Region (40%) but Maine’s southern coastal counties account for 39% of the state’s nursing workforce.
  • Challenge in meeting growing demand for long-term or home-based care largest in Southern Maine and the Penobscot and Piscataquis Region:   Maine’s aging population and an increasing demand for non-acute care will create challenges for residential facilities and home-based care providers across Maine.  The York and Cumberland County Region (9.4%) and the Penobscot and Piscataquis County Region (7.6%) have the smallest percentages of their existing nursing workforce in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and will be especially challenged in meeting demand.
  • Proportion of residents over 65 to grow by 25% in Southern Maine, every region but Aroostook to see double-digit percentage growth by 2022:  Demand for healthcare services, expected retirements among nursing professionals, and the resulting nursing workforce shortage are directly related to Maine’s aging population.  Nearly a third of the residents in Midcoast and Downeast Maine will be above the age of 65 by the year 2022 and every region of the state except for Aroostook County will see a double-digit percentage increase in the size of its senior population.

To prevent the shortage of 3,200 nursing professionals projected by 2025 Maine must increase the number of new RNs licensed in the state by 400 annually, a 65% increase over current capacity.  Maine must also attract or recruit an additional 265 RNs to the state each year to avoid the nursing workforce cliff projected by the MeNAC data.

“The surge in demand for healthcare and an increasing number of retirements in the nursing workforce are not unique to Maine,” said Lisa Anderson, Senior Vice President with the Center for Health Affairs Northeast Ohio Nursing Initiative, the organization that developed the 2016 Maine Nursing Forecaster.  “But in a national perspective the nursing workforce shortage in Maine is particularly acute because of the state’s aging population and the logistical challenge of delivering care to rural and remote communities.”

“It is with an abundance of concern for our state and the patients in our care that we continue to sound the alarm about Maine’s nursing workforce cliff.” said Lisa Harvey-McPherson, a registered nurse and Co-Chair of the Maine Nursing Action Coalition.  “Every region of Maine and every healthcare setting faces challenge as our state ages and a wave of dedicated caregivers approaches retirement.  It is going to take resources, resilience and partnership to meet Maine’s need for healthcare services.”

Maine Nursing Summit, October 27, 2017 at the University of Maine

Maine’s Public Universities and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services are partnering with MeNAC to host a Maine Nursing Summit of providers, elected officials, policy makers, philanthropic organizations, and higher education leaders.  The agenda will include a detailed presentation on the regional nursing workforce data, consideration of findings and recommendations developed by MeNAC workgroups, and solution-based discussions focused on the resources and collaborations needed to meet Maine’s demand for nursing professionals.

“If we are going to address the challenges facing the nursing workforce across our state, it is imperative that we do so collaboratively,” said Ricker Hamilton, Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “Next month’s Maine Nursing Summit offers us all a unique opportunity to discuss these issues and develop solid recommendations on how to combat this impending nursing shortage.”

Last week the University of Maine announced it had increased the size of its first year nursing class by 35% in response to the nursing workforce shortage.   Photos of UMaine White Coast Ceremony viewed here and here.

“Increasing access to nursing education is a priority for Maine’s public universities that is already starting to have an impact on student opportunity,” said Robert Neely, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.  “The Maine Nursing Summit builds on our campus-based commitment and invites providers, educators, and policy leaders from throughout the state to consider how new collaborations can build the nursing workforce Maine needs to preserve access to healthcare for all of our citizens.”

Maine Nursing Action Coalition and Forecast Background

The Maine Nursing Action Coalition is a 501c3 organization participating with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Campaign for Action. Over the past year Maine’s Nursing Action Coalition has been working with consultants from the Northeast Ohio Nursing Initiative to model the future supply of and demand for nurses in Maine.