Maine’s nursing shortage is becoming critical, with some regions poised to lose about half of their nursing staff to retirement in the next 10 years, according to a new analysis released Thursday by the Maine Nursing Action Coalition.
Lisa Harvey-McPherson, a registered nurse and co-chair of the coalition, says that during the 2008 recession, many nurses due to retire chose to keep working. Now she says they’re getting out of the workforce, along with others nearing retirement age, contributing to a projected shortage of 3,200 nurses in the next eight years.
“We have this accelerated retirement rate that’s projected out into 2025. We have a cohort of nursing faculty that are amongst the oldest nurses in Maine. So 32 percent of nursing faculty are over the age of 60,” she says.
And Harvey-McPherson says, as Maine’s 14 nursing schools face shortages of veteran staff, educating more nurses will become more of a challenge. At the same, Maine is aging rapidly.
“We have almost a perfect storm,” she says.
Some areas of particular need, according to the report, are the coastal regions of Washington, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties, with almost half of nurses in those areas due for retirement in 10 years. Nearly a third of the residents in those areas will have reached age 65 in five years’ time.
By comparison, Aroostook County’s population is aging more slowly, and also has a higher percentage of younger nurses, with about 70 percent below age 50.