The Star-Herald

UMS reports higher nursing enrollment

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine System reported Jan. 29 that campuses are seeing increased enrollment in nursing programs, a result of the system’s efforts to address a projected shortage of nurses. 

Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Robert Neely reported to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees Jan. 29 that nursing enrollment in Maine’s public universities is up 11 percent since the start of the decade. Total nursing enrollment has grown from 1,734 in 2010 to 1,920 in the fall of 2017 across all degree programs.

Maine Universities and partners are expanding pathways into Maine nursing careers following a statewide summit hosted by the University of Maine System and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to address the expected nursing shortage.

While the expansion achieved within existing university programs and resources is welcome news, it will not be enough to pull Maine back from the nursing workforce cliff that has been projected to hit the state by the middle of the next decade.

Responding to the projection that Maine faces a nursing workforce shortage of 3,200 healthcare workers by the middle of the next decade, the University hosted a nursing workforce summit in October 2017 at UMaine with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and in partnership with the Maine Nursing Action Coalition.  The summit brought together more than a hundred leaders in healthcare, education and public policy to develop actionable steps that could increase Maine’s nursing education capacity.  

Neely updated trustees on a number of the tangible university and policy initiatives already underway as a result of the nursing summit.  Examples of those initiatives include a collaboration between the University of Maine at Fort Kent is collaborating with the University of Maine at Presque Isle to launch a nursing program at UMPI starting in the fall of 2018.  

UMFK has expanded nursing enrollment by more than 2,000 percent since 2001.  To accommodate achieved growth and to continue to expand opportunities, the campus is working with providers from throughout Northern Maine to expand clinical opportunities for students in the region.

UMFK launched the Rural U Nursing Pilot Program in the Spring of 2018.  They have 20 students participating from 16 different Maine high schools from Aroostook to Cumberland Counties. Students take Introduction to Professional Nursing as a two-credit online course.  The early college students are introduced to the concept of professional nursing and get the opportunity to practice professional nursing skills and participate in professional nursing activities.  The course includes an in-hospital component.  Tuition is free.  

In Orono, the University of Maine is on target to admit another 115 first-time nursing students to the School of Nursing this fall. That number represents a 35% increase over the numbers that constituted stable enrollments for approximately 20 years for first time nursing students.  

Among other initiatives, the campus is also looking to double clinical placements at an area health care facility and working to pilot an accelerated Nursing Outreach to Rural Maine (NORM) program that would create a two-year pathway to a nursing degree for current baccalaureate degree holders looking to transition into a Maine career in nursing.

In addition, Nursing Leaders of Maine (OMNE) and Maine Nursing Action Coalition members will explore standardized state nursing curriculum at a focused meeting in early 2018 to discuss opportunities for nursing curricular alignment across the state.  Practice leaders and nursing educators will be engaged in the discussion.   

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