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University Kicks Off Rural Nursing Engagement in Ellsworth

Maine University Nursing Workforce Plan aims to bring pre-licensure nursing education and online RN to BSN and graduate nursing education to high-need Maine communities

ELLSWORTH, MAINE — The University of Maine System launched a twelve-month rural nursing engagement today in support of the Maine University Nursing Workforce Plan.  The University aims to double nursing enrollment, expand nursing education into high-need regions, and provide free tuition and mandatory fee access to nursing education to Maine students with the greatest financial need.  

The University plan includes innovations, program expansions, and $12 million in proposed nursing investments pending voter approval of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond, this November.  

Maine faces a projected nursing workforce crisis that is projected to grow to 3,200 vacancies by 2025.  The challenge is especially acute in Maine’s rural coastal counties (Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo, Hancock, and Washington) where nearly half of all nurses are over the age of 55.  

The University of Maine at Augusta is working to secure accreditation and state approvals to bring pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing education to Brunswick, Ellsworth, Rockland and Rumford to help address the wave of nursing retirements confronting providers and communities in these regions.  The programs are expected to launch in the Fall of 2019.

University officials invited community and healthcare leaders to a luncheon in Ellsworth to discuss the accreditation and state approval process and to engage in a conversation about program development and provider partnership.  Nursing leaders from several coastal providers attended the session and virtual access was available for provider partners in the River Valley region of Oxford County.  

The University of Maine System is following up on today’s meeting with an online survey of more than 400 nursing leaders and partners across the state.  

“Our patients receive phenomenal care and comfort from our nursing professionals,” said Dr. Tiffany Love, Regional Chief Nursing Officer at Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital.  “The local access to nursing education the University is planning to bring to Brunswick, Rockland, and Ellsworth will help more of our community members join our regional nursing workforce and sustain access to high quality care for our rural coastal towns and residents.”  

“We need public support for career-focused investment and strong provider partnerships to fully implement the University Nursing Workforce Plan,” said Dr. Brenda McAleer, Dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of Maine at Augusta.  “Working together we can overcome the wave of retirements facing our rural providers and educate the nurses Maine needs.”

Year Long Engagement Around Planned Fall 2019 Advancements

The Ellsworth discussion kicks off a year long engagement of rural Maine providers, community leaders and local schools to build awareness and partnerships in support of the Maine University Nursing Workforce Plan.  The rural engagement will focus on elements coming online in the Fall of 2019:

  • University plans to bring pre-licensure nursing education to Brunswick, Ellsworth, Machias, Rockland, and Rumford and expand access through the program launched in the Fall of 2018 in Presque Isle;
  • A University of Maine System commitment to affordabilitythat will provide free nursing education (tuition and mandatory fees covered) to Maine students with the greatest financial need;
  • The  Online Education Services Agreement signed by the University last month that leverages a multimillion-dollar investment and program innovations to help provide every Maine healthcare professional with affordable, online access to RN to BSN and graduate nursing education.  The agreement is expected to advance 6 online nursing programs over the next two years; and,
  • Early College innovations that will provide high school students from every Maine community an opportunity to explore and prepare for a Maine health career while earning free or low cost college credits and experience.