The Star-Herald

UMFK, UMPI target nursing shortage with launch of new nursing degree program

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In an effort to overcome the critical shortage of healthcare providers in Aroostook County and to help address the statewide nursing cliff, the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Maine at Presque Isle are collaborating to launch a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program in Presque Isle starting in Fall 2018.

Temporary lab space is being prepared on the UMPI campus to accommodate an initial cohort of 16 nursing students this fall. Permanent lab space and planned program and facility improvements designed to achieve an ongoing increase in nursing and healthcare education capacity and attract more students to Aroostook County are contingent on voter approval of Question 4, the University of Maine System Workforce Development Infrastructure Investment Bond on the ballot this November. The proposal includes more than $7 million in planned investments at UMFK and UMPI.

Designed for those who aren’t able to travel to Fort Kent to complete a Nursing degree due to family and work responsibilities, this new program will allow students to complete all four years of the BSN on the UMPI campus. Program participants will be UMPI students for the first two years, then transition as UMFK students for the remaining two years. They will still take all of their courses on the Presque Isle campus for their last two years, but those courses will be delivered by UMFK Nursing faculty and students will graduate with their BSN from UMFK.

Space is still available and area residents interested in a local career in nursing are encouraged to contact the UMPI Admissions Office immediately at 207-768-9532 or umpi-admissions@maine.edu.

“UMFK is committed to addressing nursing workforce challenges, and expanding our BSN program to Presque Isle is one way to do so,” UMFK President John Short said. “Both campuses provide quality, affordable education and offering our BSN program on the UMPI campus will address another important need in the County: increased access to high-demand educational programs.”

“We are so pleased to be working with UMFK on this important endeavor and to have UMPI be part of the solution in addressing Maine’s nursing workforce crisis,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “This program allows us to meet our students where they’re at, to attract those students who might otherwise leave the County for their education—decreasing the likelihood that they’ll return for their careers—and, ultimately, introduce more four-year Nursing graduates into the local workforce.”

“The University of Maine System continues to expand enrollment to meet student demand for our nursing programs and the demand from hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities for skilled four-year nurses,” James H. Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System, said.  “Program expansions and facility improvements tied to the University workforce development infrastructure bond will increase our Aroostook County capacity to train the nurses and healthcare professions our rural communities must have.”

The UMFK-UMPI collaboration comes at an important time in the nursing field in Maine. The 2016 Maine Nursing Forecaster projects that Maine will face a shortage of approximately 3,200 registered nurses by 2025. A major factor impacting that statistic is age. The median age of Maine nurses in 2015 was 49; at that time, 10,984 nurses in Maine were aged 45 or over, compared to only 7,764 nurses aged 44 and under. The Nursing Workforce Forecast projects that Maine will need to increase its number of newly-licensed nurses by 20 percent each year to solve the projected nursing shortage and avoid impacts on care levels.

“The Maine Nursing Action Coalition explored factors related to the nursing shortage in Maine and determined that the total number of nursing graduates will have to increase by 400 more nurses per year to fill the current gap. Each college or university offering a nursing program will have to increase graduates by 30 percent to meet this demand,” Dr. Erin Soucy, Director, Division of Nursing & Allied Health, at UMFK, said. “Expanding our program to Presque Isle allows us to graduate more students at Fort Kent and help with that gap.”

In building this program, UMPI and UMFK faculty and staff worked closely to ensure that students will be able to complete their General Education courses at UMPI, including foundation courses in science. The goal is to seamlessly transition them into UMFK for their final two years of courses, which are predominantly live and online Nursing courses, as well as Nursing clinicals.

As part of the program, UMFK Nursing faculty will hold regular office hours on the UMPI campus to assist with program coordination, student questions, and advising needs. In addition, Dr. Soucy will have a presence on the UMPI campus to ensure academic oversight.

UMPI is developing temporary lab space on campus for a Nursing suite in Pullen Hall. The lab will include four hospital suites to allow students to practice psychomotor and clinical nursing skills in a mock hospital setting. Each suite will have a hospital bed, bedside table, overbed table, human patient simulator mannequin, and related equipment, including a needle disposal system, glove dispensing system, oxygen, and an IV pole.

“Having this lab space and UMFK Nursing faculty on the UMPI campus will allow the students in this BSN program to have the same experience that students on the UMFK campus are having, which will prepare them well for the work they’ll be doing right here in Aroostook County after they graduate,” Barbara Blackstone, Dean of UMPI’s College of Professional Programs, said. “We all see this as a wonderful opportunity to collaborate and help develop the healthcare workforce in Aroostook County.”

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to meet the nursing workforce needs in Aroostook County and collaborate with our colleagues at UMPI in increasing accessibility to quality nursing education to the citizens of Aroostook County, the State of Maine, and beyond,” Dr. Soucy said.

For more information about the new UMFK Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at UMPI, contact Patricia Armstrong at 207-768-9532 or umpi-admissions@maine.edu.

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