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Community colleges across Maine will expand nursing programs, hoping to double annual graduates

Replacement Nurses
Rich Pedroncelli
In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, is Tim Brown, 25, emergency room nurse from Jacksonville, Fla, who moved to Sacramento, Calif. with a friend in February to work at a Sacramento hospital as a traveling nurse.

The state and Maine's two largest healthcare systems are investing $5 million in Maine's Community College System to increase programming capacity to double the number of nurses that graduate each year. Northern Light Health and MaineHealth have been hampered by nursing shortages and Gov. Janet Mills included $2.5 million for training in her supplemental budget. Central Maine Community College President Betsy Libby said all seven campuses are either expanding a nursing program they had or starting a new one.

"We have one campus starting nursing this fall and now they can expand, we have another that had no nursing program and now they will. Five of us had programs and those will grow," Libby said.

Libby said adding weekend and night programs and hiring 11 new full time staff will make it possible for the school to add 40 more nursing slots next spring.

"In addition to helping healthcare facilities with workforce shortages, we are providing Mainers with good quality education and starting wages....as a registered nurse," Libby said.

Washington County Community College and York County Community College will launch new nursing programs. The remaining schools are adding nursing student slots. The goal is to train 480 nurses annually, up from 240 that currently graduate each year.

Governor Mills included the state allocation in the supplemental budget signed into law on April 20.

Carol Bousquet