University of Maine Steps Up to Address Nursing Shortage

The University of Maine has come up with a wide-reaching plan to do something about the looming nursing workforce crisis in the state of Maine. Forward planning, a multi-pronged approached, and cooperation between different organizations is how the university sees to tackle these complicated issues.

As in most parts of the world, Maine faces a serious shortage of nurses because of the increasing demands for health services and a large percentage of the nursing workforce who are due to retire over the next few years. It is estimated that the state will require an additional 3,200 new nurses by 2025. The strategic and multi-pronged five-year University Nursing Workforce Plan was announced by James Page, University of Maine System Chancellor.

Firstly, the plan aims to double the number of nursing students admitted to BSN nursing programs. Nursing education will be expanded to campuses in high need rural areas, and there will be funding for students with the highest financial need – covering tuition as well as all mandatory fees. As part of the rural outreach, an accelerated 2-year BSN programme will be introduced for adults who want to make a career change and who already hold a first degree. The university is also collaborating with various healthcare partners to extend clinical placement opportunities.

Furthermore, the university will be introducing affordable online courses that will provide every nurse in the state with the opportunity to advance their education and careers. Programs offered will include RN to BSN, Masters of Science in Nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Practice. Course innovations will consist of time condensed courses; frequent starting dates; as well as advanced outreach and support services to help students on these programs to succeed.

Recruitment of nursing students will also receive attention. The university will be introducing an online Early College Health Professions Certificate which will give high school students the opportunity to explore careers in healthcare while at the same time earning university credits.

Pending voter approval of the University Workforce Bond, funding will be set aside for improved and expanded nursing education facilities, particularly at outlying campuses – classrooms, nursing simulation, and science labs, as well as student support services.

“The University plan to address the nursing shortage creates a coordinated, state-wide continuum of nursing education and support for students starting in high school, career-transitioning adults, and existing health care professionals,” Page said. “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.”

Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.

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