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University Nursing Workforce Plan Aims to Double Enrollment

University of Maine System Responds to Nursing Cliff With Plan To Double Nursing Enrollment, Expand Nursing Programs Into High-Need Communities, And Provide Free Nursing Education For Students With Greatest Financial Need

Program innovations, expansions, and planned investments pending voter approval of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond, are part of five-year plan to address a Maine nursing shortage projected to grow to 3,200 vacancies by 2025

AUGUSTA, MAINE — University of Maine System Chancellor James H. Page and the Presidents of the University of Maine System campuses unveiled a strategic, statewide response to Maine’s nursing workforce crisis at the September 12th Wisdom Summit hosted by the Maine Council on Aging at the Augusta Civic Center.  The five-year University Nursing Workforce Plan seeks to double nursing enrollment and bring new nursing programs to the regions of Maine with the most urgent need to replace retiring nurses. The plan will also cover tuition and mandatory fees for new, first-degree nursing education students with the greatest financial need through the Universities of Maine at Augusta, Fort Kent, and Presque Isle.

Maine Nursing Cliff — 3,200 Vacancies Projected Through 2025

Maine healthcare providers are struggling today to fill hundreds of nursing positions. The number of nursing vacancies is projected to grow to 3,200 positions by 2025 as the size of Maine’s service-dependent, 65-and-over population grows by more-than-a-third in the next ten years. Additionally, a wave of nursing professionals over the age of 55 will soon reduce work hours and retire from the physically demanding field.  The challenge of replacing aging nurses is particularly acute in Maine’s rural coastal counties where nearly half of the nursing workforce is over the age of 55.

Healthcare leaders have determined that Maine needs to attract 250 new nurses to Maine and educate an additional 400 license-eligible Maine nursing graduates every year to overcome the workforce crisis. Maine’s public universities educate the majority of Maine’s license-eligible, four-year nursing graduates.

“The University of Maine System has been helping to lead Maine’s response to the state nursing workforce crisis,” said Lisa Harvey-McPherson, a registered nurse and Co-Chair of the Maine Nursing Action Coalition. “The investments and program expansions the University is proposing moves us closer to the additional 400 license-eligible nursing graduates Maine needs each year.”  

The University’s Five-Year Nursing Workforce Plan

“The University plan to address the nursing shortage creates a coordinated, statewide continuum of nursing education and support for students starting in high school, career-transitioning adults, and existing healthcare professionals,” said James H. Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System. “Working across our campuses and with community partners we will create the innovations and make the investments needed to build a larger, more-highly qualified nursing workforce for Maine.”  

The five-year plan is expected to double total nursing enrollment across the System and more than double the number of locations across Maine where students can access pre-licensure nursing education.  Specific elements of the plan include:

Expanding Nursing In High-Need Rural Regions:  Augusta, Brunswick, Presque Isle, Machias, Ellsworth, Rockland, and Rumford:  The University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Maine at Presque Isle have collaborated to launch a new Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) at the University of Maine at Presque Isle in the Fall of 2018.  The new nursing program is serving 20 students in a temporary space at the Presque Isle campus. Proposed facility and health science lab and classroom improvements pending voter approval of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond, are part of a plan to grow nursing enrollment in Presque Isle to 100 students over five years.  

The University of Maine is developing the Nursing Outreach to Rural Maine Program that provides current holders of a baccalaureate degree a two-year path to a pre-licensure BSN.   The curriculum for the advanced-standing degree program is now being tested as part of a partnership with Acadia Hospital in Bangor and UMaine currently has 23 students on an accelerated path to earning a BSN.  

Launching an accelerated second-degree BSN program in Machias will provide degree-holding adults from Downeast Maine a two-year transition into a local nursing career.   Planned campus improvements in Machias to the Science Building and the facility that will host nursing training are also pending voter approval this Fall.

The University of Maine at Augusta has been approved for its own BSN program based in Augusta and will be launching rural cohorts at UMA Centers in Brunswick, Ellsworth, Rockland, and Rumford in the Fall of 2019.  UMA is anticipating a BSN nursing enrollment of more than 400 students in five years.

Free Nursing Education for Maine Students with the Greatest Financial Need:  In the Fall of 2018 the University of Maine System leveraged its nation-leading commitment to affordability and historic investments in institutional financial aid to launch a promise initiative that completely covers tuition and mandatory fees for first-year Maine students attending the Universities of Maine at Augusta, Fort Kent, Machias, and Presque Isle and are eligible for a federal Pell Grant.   To better serve adult, career-focused students the University of Maine at Augusta and its UMA Centers also commit to providing tuition and mandatory fee coverage for Pell-eligible full and part-time transfer students.   

New nursing students with the greatest financial need will be able to participate in pre-licensure BSN programs in Augusta, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Fort Kent, Presque Isle, Rockland, and Rumford, without any tuition or mandatory fee obligations.

Investments Pending Voter Approval of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond:  More than $12 million in proceeds from the University Workforce Bond, Question 4, on the November ballot, will be invested in nursing simulation spaces, science labs, and classrooms that directly support nursing education. Investments will also be made in campus facilities that will improve enrollment, student support, and career placement services for nursing students and their peers.  Proposed investments pending voter approval by region include:

  • Portland, USM:  Double the size of nursing simulation space in the System’s largest nursing program, helping to accommodate 20% growth in existing pre-licensure BSN enrollment;
  • Lewiston, USM:  Investments in the Lewiston-Auburn community to increase access to nursing education in the region;
  • Augusta, UMA:  Improvements to campus to consolidate and deliver enrollment and support services to the university’s largely adult, career-focused student population expected to grow by 400 nursing students in Augusta, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Rockland, Rumford and over five years;
  • Machias, UMM:  Renovations to the Science Building, including lab space, that will host nursing prerequisite courses and restoration projects at the facility that will contain nursing simulation equipment;
  • Presque Isle, UMPI:  Rehabilitate and Expand Nursing and Allied Health Classrooms and Lab Spaces in Wieden and Folsom Halls, supporting a new nursing program expected to grow to 100 students; and,
  • Fort Kent, UMFK:  Advances a plan to establish a health science and professional campus that better connects students to Maine careers.  Deferred maintenance and efficiency savings tied to an overall reduction in campus square footage will contribute to improvements in classrooms that support campus-based nursing and professional programs and the delivery of affordable, online advanced nursing training that can be accessed from any Maine community.

Planned Program Innovations and Partnerships

New Clinical Placement Partnerships:  The 2017 Maine Nursing Summit and regional workforce collaborations led by the University of Maine System and healthcare industry partners are creating new opportunities for clinical placements.  The dedicated education unit established by Eastern Maine Medical Center, the University of Maine, and Husson University is an example that has doubled clinical placement capacity.

Career-advancing, Online Nursing for Maine Health Professionals:  More than $4 million in investment and program innovations are planned to create an industry leading online nursing program that provides every Maine healthcare professional with affordable, online access to graduate nursing education that can be balanced with family, work and community obligations. Innovations will include time condensed courses, frequent start dates, enrollment assistance, advanced outreach, and high touch student support services that are proven to help busy adults achieve program success.

Online education opportunities that will be available to Maine healthcare professionals encompasses a suite of programs offered by the University of Southern Maine or the University of Maine at Fort Kent including:

  • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing;
  • Masters of Science in Nursing; and,
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice.

The University of Maine System is planning a Fall 2019 launch of the online programs and five-year total online enrollment of more than 1,000 Maine and non-resident health professionals.

The Maine Career Early College Health Professions Certificate:  Launched in the Fall of 2018 at the University of Maine at Machias, the Early College Health Professions Certificate gives participating high school students the chance to explore a Maine career in healthcare and earn up to 19 transferable college credits at little or no cost to their families.  With System support and coordination across campuses the Early College Health Professions Certificate will be offered online starting in the Fall of 2019, giving every qualified Maine high school student an opportunity to explore and prepare for a career as a Maine health professional.