UMFK/UMPI nursing program sees busy first year, doubles slots for fall

FORT KENT and PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Following a successful first year of the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s bachelor of science in nursing degree program delivered at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and as part of continued efforts to address the statewide nursing cliff, officials are doubling the number of slots for fall 2019. 

The nursing expansion in Presque Isle is part of the University of Maine System commitment to doubling nursing enrollment over the next five years to address the shortage that is expected to grow to 2,700 vacancies by 2025.

The BSN program, a unique collaboration between UMPI and UMFK, allows students to complete all four years of the UMFK degree on the UMPI campus. Program participants are UMPI students for the first two years and UMFK students for the remaining two years. Courses are delivered by UMFK nursing faculty on the Presque Isle campus, and students graduate with a UMFK degree. 

Designed to meet the needs of place-bound students — those who aren’t able to travel to Fort Kent due to family and work responsibilities — as well as to address the region and state’s nursing workforce challenges, the program welcomed a cohort of 16 students in fall 2018. 

“While the number of available slots has been expanded to 32, they have been filling quickly, so we definitely encourage people to apply early,” said Stacy Thibodeau, UMFK assistant professor of nursing, who delivers classes in Presque Isle. “We are very pleased with how well the first year of the program went, and we’re looking forward to training the next cohort of future healthcare professionals.”

The program features classes and labs each semester.

“We do clinicals from day one,” Thibodeau said.

Last year, students learned about personal protective equipment, universal precautions, wound care, the mobility and transfer of patients, and how to check vital signs and collect samples. They visited the Maine Veterans Home and interacted with residents as they checked blood pressures, assisted with bed baths, and practiced therapeutic communication. 

“We also had a really exciting opportunity to work in conjunction with UMPI’s medical laboratory technology program on a live, hands-on case scenario where we had actual blood from a blood bank and used it to practice hanging IVs for blood transfusion,” Thibodeau said. “Simulations like this are always so impactful. Students were able to practice retrieving blood from a ‘lab,’ patient identification, checking for allergic reactions, and how to prepare and administer blood.”

Thibodeau said one of the most important things that sets this program apart is the way faculty integrate both the art and the science of nursing, the professionalism and the compassion, into students’ learning. 

“It’s a very holistic approach to nursing and it prepares students to be more well-rounded professionals when they graduate,” Thibodeau said. “And with their BSN degree, they’ll be ready for leadership roles once they complete the program.”

By the time students finish the second year of the program, packed with advanced clinical preparation, they’ll be signed off on inserting IVs, catheters and nasogastric tubes. They also will have a deeper understanding of a patient-centered care approach, professional mindfulness, and how to create and adapt individual care plans.

UMPI has set up a nursing lab in Pullen Hall, complete with four hospital suites to allow students to practice psychomotor and clinical nursing skills in a mock hospital setting. Each suite includes 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.

Thibodeau is excited about what the future holds for the program in terms of lab space and equipment. UMPI is investing more than $500,000 from the University Workforce Bond passed by voters last fall to further develop and create state-of-the-art healthcare classroom and laboratory spaces.  

Meanwhile, she is preparing for the fall semester. The program will have a welcome in August for new students, and will match freshmen to second-year students so the sophomores can serve as mentors.

Students also have the opportunity to be involved in SNO, the UMPI Student Nursing Organization. Right now, the student club has about 20 members. Their focus will be on volunteering, community service, and fundraising to attend the National Student Nurses Association conference in Orlando next April, with the goal of bringing back the latest nursing advances to the community.

“Our focus is not only ensuring student success, but also making certain that students who graduate from the program are as compassionate and caring as they are strong in knowledge and clinicals, so that when they leave here, they know what it takes to go the extra mile for their patients,” Thibodeau said. 

“What I want is, when I’m working beside them as colleagues in acute care, I’m proud. I want to make sure that they’re a nurse I want to work beside.”

For more information, contact UMPI’s admissions department at 207-768-9532 or email

 Submitted by the Community and Media Relations Office of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

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