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Universities and Partners Target Nursing Cliff

Maine’s Nursing Workforce Forecaster projects a a shortage of 3,200 registered nurses by 2025.

 Forecast tool finds thirty percent of the state’s nurses are age 55 or older without enough young nurses or nursing education capacity to replace the wave of healthcare professionals being lost to retirement through 2025.  Maine’s Universities and LePage Administration to host Maine Nursing Summit focusing on innovations and partnerships that can build the state’s nursing education capacity.

AUGUSTA, MAINE – Nurses representing OMNE – Nursing Leaders of Maine, the American Nursing Association of Maine, and the Maine Nursing Action Coalition announced at an event at the State House today that the 2016 Maine Nursing Forecaster projects that Maine will face a shortage of approximately 3,200 registered nurses by 2025.  The forecast tool looked at demographics of Maine’s existing nurses, projected demands for healthcare services as Maine continues to age, and trends in nursing education in Maine.

Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, State Senator Amy Volk, and University of Maine System Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Robert Neely also participated in the announcement.

In 2015 the median age of Maine nurses was 49 but about thirty percent of all RNs are age 55 or older.  Taking a closer look at the numbers we find that 10,984 nurses in Maine are aged 45 or over compared to just 7,764 nurses aged 44 and under.  This disparity represents an employment cliff of over 3,000 nurses that must be overcome to sustain access to quality care in Maine.

“As a nurse I understand the critical role that nurses have in improving the health of Maine’s population,” said State Representative Anne Perry of of Calais, Maine. “Nurses are at work around the clock in our hospitals, residential facilities, clinics, and schools to provide care and comfort to the people of Maine.  “Our service to our patients includes calling attention to a looming crisis; a nursing cliff that will leave our healthcare system with a shortage of 3,200 nurses by the middle of the next decade.  As Maine’s nurse legislator I look forward to advancing policies and initiatives to address Maine’s critical nursing workforce challenges.”

The problems associated with nursing demographics are compounded by the aging and growing need for services among Maine’s general population.

Age has a significant impact on inpatient demand for services in a hospital setting.  Maine’s senior population is projected to grow by 37 percent.  Over the same period Maine’s working-age population (18-64) will drop from 62 percent of the population to just 55 percent, requiring proportional increases in nursing employment as a percentage of overall employment.  Adding to the challenge is the fact that the size of the new worker demographic in Maine (18-24), the population that provides the largest pool of potential new RNs, is projected to decline by nearly 5 percent by 2027.

The Nursing Workforce Forecast projects that Maine will need to increase the number of newly licensed nurses by approximately 20 percent each year to solve the projected nursing shortage and avoid impacts on care levels.  If state-based education capacity does not increase Maine would need to recruit and retain approximately 600 new nurses to the State annually.  The likely solution to the forecasted nursing shortage is a combination of out-of-state recruitment and new instate education capacity.

“Governor LePage and his administration recognize the challenges faced by health care employers trying to hire nurses and Mainers interested in joining the nursing profession,” said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.  “We look forward to working with nurse representatives and institutions of higher education to remove barriers to entry in the nursing profession, which is one of the most critical in our health care system.”

State Senator Amy Volk (R-Cumberland) has proposed Maine Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact Legislation to make it easier to recruit healthcare providers already licensed as nurses in other states to Maine.

“The workforce trends facing our healthcare providers in Maine are already at a critical point,” said State Senator Amy Volk. “I am pleased to join Maine’s nursing professionals to create awareness among my Legislative colleagues and to help align state policies so we can better address our needs.”

Nursing Education Constraints

The University of Southern Maine Nursing Program recently released its biennial State of the State’s Nursing Program report that highlights some of the challenges and constraints in nursing education that Maine’s colleges and universities must overcome to meaningfully increase capacity.  Examples include:

  • 32 percent of Maine’s full time nursing faculty is over the age of 60
  • Vacant Full Time Faculty Positions nearly doubled (10 to 19) from 2013 to 2015
  • Full time nursing faculty fell from 169 positions to 130 positions from 2013 to 2015
  • Student to Faculty Ratio increases from 23:1 to 31:1 from 2013 to 2015

Innovations and partnerships are one of the paths Maine’s universities and colleges are pursuing to bring new capacity online.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and the Northern Maine Community College are planning Northern Maine Nursing Education Partnership that will make a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree available to students in Presque Isle.  The partnership will open up nursing education to UMPI students, creates a seamless pathway to a BSN for existing NMCC two-year nursing degree students, and will better meet the workforce needs of healthcare providers in Southern Aroostook County.  Lectures will be held at UMPI and lab work will be conducted in the state-of-the-art nursing simulation labs at NMCC.

Maine Nursing Summit Announced

Maine’s Public Universities will be working with the LePage Administration to host a Maine Nursing Summit of providers, elected officials, policy makers, philanthropic organizations, and higher education leaders.  The summit will assess existing constraints in nursing education in Maine and consider actions needed to build the capacity to train an adequate supply of nurses to serve the healthcare needs of Maine and its citizens.

“Working as One University we can collaborate across our campuses and with our state and community partners to respond to Maine’s toughest challenges,” said Robert Neely, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.  “The Maine Nursing Summit will bring providers, philanthropic organizations, policy makers, and educators together to share ideas and discuss strategies for ensuring that Maine has the highly qualified nursing workforce we need to care for our citizens.”

Maine Nursing Action Coalition and Forecast Tool Contacts

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.

Specific Questions about the Maine Nursing Forecaster, its assumptions, and methodologies can be referred to Pat Cirillo, Vice President of Initiatives and Analytics, The Center for Health Affairs, Northeast Ohio Nursing Initiative at (216) 255-3655.