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How one college is tackling the rural nursing shortage

How one college is tackling the rural nursing shortage

The Hechinger Report

Nichole Dobo
October 28, 2022
Emily Thompson was working in a convenience store in rural Maine two years ago when she met someone who changed her life.
Thompson, then 47, had recently reentered the workforce as a cashier after raising her child. A woman came into the store, worried about getting gas into her car because she had forgotten her wallet. As she helped the woman with the electronic payment app on her smartphone, she noticed her name tag: Pilar Burmeister, director of the nursing program at Eastern Maine Community College.
“Can you really get an R.N. from a community college?” Thompson recalls asking her.
Yes, she could. Not only that, she wouldn’t need to travel into the city to do it.
The nursing program at the Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Maine, partners with rural hospitals to provide nursing education close to home for students who would rather not come into the city. Now in its sixth year, the program is helping the community college increase enrollment in a job that’s in great demand. And it is reaching students who might otherwise struggle with transportation costs (especially during a period of epically high gas prices), family responsibilities or just a preference for staying close to home.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Burmeister said. “We get to increase our rolls. Hospitals win because they get nurses. Students win on saving time and money.”
Nationwide, hospitals are grappling with major staffing shortages. To get enough nurses to care for patients, hospitals have been shelling out extraordinary sums to travel nurses. The situation is dire in rural hospitals, which have a smaller local population to draw from and have historically struggled to recruit people to work in the more remote regions.
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