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Maine Doesn’t Have Enough Nurses to Care for People in Their Homes

May 22, 2017

The Bangor Daily News recently ran a story about the nursing field featuring our own Gretchen Speed and two of the nursing students who recently spent time learning at Greater Portland Health, Courtney Wilson and Josselyn Agura. Thank you to Louise for her mentorship of the nursing students!

PORTLAND, Maine — Courtney Wilson and Josselyn Agura will graduate from nursing school Saturday, and already they’re worried about burning out from their chosen profession.

Nursing often means caring for patients who are sicker than in years past, with more complex health problems, in a shorter amount of time. Then there are the long hours on their feet and physical challenges of lifting and tending to patients.

But if Maine is to employ enough nurses to care for its aging population in the coming decades, it needs people like Wilson and Agura. Without action, the state will face a critical shortage of nurses by 2025, according to recent estimates.

Not only burnout threatens their ranks. Maine nurses are aging right along with the patients they treat — a coming wave of patients older than 65 will boost demand for nurses just as many are nearing retirement. In 2015, about a third of all registered nurses in Maine were age 55 or older, and younger workers who make up the biggest potential pool of new registered nurses are projected to drop by nearly 5 percent. Many nursing instructors, too, are approaching retirement age.

“What draws me to the profession and what I want to keep continuing with is developing a relationship that’s trusting and really getting to see the whole picture of each patient, as opposed to just what disease they’re being treated for,” Agura said.

That can prove a tall order in a hospital setting. So Agura and Wilson are taking a different tack in their nursing education, by getting clinical experience at Greater Portland Health’s community health centers during their final year of education at the University of New England. Rather than the pressure cooker environment of the ER or ICU, they’re focused on “community nursing” — primary care, preventing chronic diseases and ensuring patients stay or get healthy outside the walls of a hospital.

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