UMFK/UMPI nursing program sees busy first year, doubles slots for fall

Following a successful first year of the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s bachelor of science in nursing degree program delivered at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and as part of continued efforts to address the statewide nursing cliff, officials are doubling the number of slots for fall 2019.

The nursing expansion in Presque Isle is part of the University of Maine System commitment to doubling nursing enrollment over the next five years to address the shortage that is expected to grow to 2,700 vacancies by 2025.

The BSN program, a unique collaboration between UMPI and UMFK, allows students to complete all four years of the UMFK degree on the UMPI campus. Program participants are UMPI students for the first two years and UMFK students for the remaining two years. Courses are delivered by UMFK nursing faculty on the Presque Isle campus, and students graduate with a UMFK degree.

Designed to meet the needs of place-bound students — those who aren’t able to travel to Fort Kent due to family and work responsibilities — as well as to address the region and state’s nursing workforce challenges, the program welcomed a cohort of 16 students in fall 2018.

“While the number of available slots has been expanded to 32, they have been filling quickly, so we definitely encourage people to apply early,” said Stacy Thibodeau, UMFK assistant professor of nursing, who delivers classes in Presque Isle. “We are very pleased with how well the first year of the program went, and we’re looking forward to training the next cohort of future healthcare professionals.”

The program features classes and labs each semester.

“We do clinicals from day one,” Thibodeau said.

Last year, students learned about personal protective equipment, universal precautions, wound care, the mobility and transfer of patients, and how to check vital signs and collect samples. They visited the Maine Veterans Home and interacted with residents as they checked blood pressures, assisted with bed baths, and practiced therapeutic communication.

“We also had a really exciting opportunity to work in conjunction with UMPI’s medical laboratory technology program on a live, hands-on case scenario where we had actual blood from a blood bank and used it to practice hanging IVs for blood transfusion,” Thibodeau said. “Simulations like this are always so impactful. Students were able to practice retrieving blood from a ‘lab,’ patient identification, checking for allergic reactions, and how to prepare and administer blood.”

Thibodeau said one of the most important things that sets this program apart is the way faculty integrate both the art and the science of nursing, the professionalism and the compassion, into students’ learning.

“It’s a very holistic approach to nursing and it prepares students to be more well-rounded professionals when they graduate,” Thibodeau said. “And with their BSN degree, they’ll be ready for leadership roles once they complete the program.”