Nurses representing OMNE – Nursing Leaders of Maine, the American Nursing Association of Maine, and the Maine Nursing Action Coalition announced at an event at the State House Tuesday that the 2016 Maine Nursing Forecaster projects that Maine will face a shortage of approximately 3,200 registered nurses by 2025.

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The forecast tool looked at demographics of Maine’s existing nurses, projected demands for healthcare services as Maine continues to age, and trends in nursing education in Maine.

In 2015 the median age of Maine nurses was 49 but about thirty percent of all RNs are age 55 or older.  Taking a closer look at the numbers we find that 10,984 nurses in Maine are aged 45 or over compared to just 7,764 nurses aged 44 and under.  This disparity represents an employment cliff of over 3,000 nurses that must be overcome to sustain access to quality care in Maine.

The problems associated with nursing demographics are compounded by the aging and growing need for services among Maine’s general population.

Age has a significant impact on inpatient demand for services in a hospital setting.  Maine’s senior population is projected to grow by 37 percent.  Over the same period Maine’s working-age population (18-64) will drop from 62 percent of the population to just 55 percent, requiring proportional increases in nursing employment as a percentage of overall employment.  Adding to the challenge is the fact that the size of the new worker demographic in Maine (18-24), the population that provides the largest pool of potential new RNs, is projected to decline by nearly 5 percent by 2027.

The Nursing Workforce Forecast projects that Maine will need to increase the number of newly licensed nurses by approximately 20 percent each year to solve the projected nursing shortage and avoid impacts on care levels.  If state-based education capacity does not increase Maine would need to recruit and retain approximately 600 new nurses to the State annually.  The likely solution to the forecasted nursing shortage is a combination of out-of-state recruitment and new instate education capacity.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and Northern Maine Community College are launching a Northern Maine Nursing Education Partnership that will make a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree available to students in Presque Isle.  The partnership opens up nursing education to UMPI students, creates a seamless pathway to a BSN for existing NMCC two-year nursing degree students, and will better meet the workforce needs of healthcare providers in Southern Aroostook County.  While final details are still being worked out on the campuses, the partnership plans to launch its first BSN cohort in the Fall of 2017.  Lectures will be held at UMPI and lab work will be conducted in the state-of-the-art nursing simulation labs at NMCC.