Facts behind Maine’s nursing shortage

Maine hospitals reported an 8.3% vacancy rate for registered nurses and 13.3% for radiological technicians in 2002, according to the Maine Hospital Association (MHA) in Augusta. Substantial vacancy rates exist for other allied health professions employed in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Demographic trends are discouraging. The average age of RNs in Maine is 45, and there is concern that in 10 years large numbers of nurses will retire, creating crippling vacancies on hospital staffs. These vacancies will occur just as 78 million baby boomers reach the age when their needs for health care will grow.

Other causes for the shortage, says the MHA, include increased opportunities for nondirect care roles for nurses in case management, utilization review and quality management both in and outside the hospital, a dramatically changed work environment emphasizing shorter stays, greater regulatory paperwork and technological and pharmaceutical advances, and greater reluctance on the part of nurses to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

The state will need many more nurses and allied health care professionals in the next 10 years to fill the vacancies created by a large number of retirements and an increased demand for health services.

The Maine Department of Labor estimates that 2,676 new RN positions will be created in the ten-year period from 1998-2008 (this number does not include current positions that will be vacated through retirements, or the inability to recruit successfully.)

Currently, Maine’s nursing education programs have the capacity to produce 425 graduates annually.

[For more information, contact: Maine Hospital Association, 33 Fuller Road, Augusta, ME 04330. Telephone: (207) 622-4794. Fax: (207) 622-3073. Web site: www.themha.org.]