Grant helps open doors for aspiring nurses in rural Maine

BREWER — For nursing students living in some of Maine’s more rural regions, receiving education and training once required a lot of travel, with commutes often exceeding 45 minutes one way. A few years back, Northern Light Health partnered with Eastern Maine Community College on a satellite nursing program, and now a federal grant is helping that collaboration continue to build through increased access to simulation training at three rural Northern Light Health facilities in Hancock, Somerset, and Piscataquis counties. The simulation programs and activities will take place at Northern Light Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, and Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield. Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital, and Northern Light CA Dean Hospital in Greenville will also have access to the training at the three county sites and a mobile simulation lab that will allow all hospitals to collaborate on training scenarios.

Receiving one of only 22 such grants in the country from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Northern Light Health is developing the hospital clinical training sites with a suite of state-of-the-art simulation mannequins. The focus will be on low frequency — high acuity medical situations, including maternal health and geriatric care. In addition to teaching students, these simulation centers will also help nurses who are already employed by Northern Light Health develop their skills in these critical areas.

“There is a very real need for nurses in rural areas,” says Bette Neville, RNC, MSN, vice president, chief nursing officer for Northern Light Health. “Often, if nursing education isn’t offered close by or isn’t easily accessible, people will take a different path. Through this grant and our continuing relationship with Eastern Maine Community College, we can bring that education to people living in these regions who want to pursue nursing.”

“The EMCC Nursing Program is excited to be a part of the grant with Northern Light Health’s rural hospitals to expand nursing education to our Maine communities,” says Heather Rushmore, MSN, RN, CNE, program director and department chair for EMCC’s Nursing program. “Our satellite nursing program places nearly 100 percent of our graduates directly into nursing jobs at the rural hospital in which they train. This grant is an exciting opportunity for us to strengthen our relationships in our rural settings, while building these programs and improving the nursing workforce in Maine.”

Tracy Bonney-Corson, RN, PhD, vice president of Nursing and Patient Care Services at Sebasticook Valley Hospital says, “Patients within our communities will gain reassurance knowing our team members have routinely prepared for scenarios that they might otherwise not have been accustomed to seeing.”

“These simulation sites will essentially develop our team members’ muscle memory,” notes Bonney-Corson. “They’ll have many opportunities to run through the scenario as a simulation, and when or if it comes through their hospital doors in the real world, they’ll have that muscle memory and know all the steps they need to take.”

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