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December 10, 2008


The University of Maine at Fort Kent has received a grant from the Davis Education Foundation of Falmouth, Maine, in support of UMFK’s Enhancing Birthing and Neonatal Care Nursing Education.  The grant, in that amount of $98,851, will provide significant support for the purchase of a Neonatal Simulator. 

UMFK nursing students already complete more than 1,100 hours in clinical and laboratory settings, however, due to the low birth rate in Aroostook County, nursing students often graduate with limited obstetrical, or childbirth, experiences.  The Enhancing Birthing and Neonatal Education program will address that issue by employing technology to fill the experiential gap.  The new simulation equipment will not replace clinical experience.  Instead, the simulated experiences will be used to better prepare students for the clinical setting. 

Through the use of the Neonatal Simulator, realistic birthing can be simulated through the use of life-sized models and software.  

“The UMFK nursing faculty is delighted to receive a grant enabling us to purchase a human patient simulator,” said Erin Soucy, director of UMFK’s Nursing Division.  

“We are especially pleased to be purchasing a neonatal simulator. The NOELLE doll has the ability to simulate labor and delivery and simulates complicated deliveries such as breech births. Increasing obstetrical simulation capabilities will improve student learning outcomes,” Soucy added. 

The use of human patient simulators is becoming more common in schools of nursing across the country. The advantages to using human patient simulators are numerous.  They allow students to learn by true simulation because they participate in real-life patient scenarios with a life-like mannequin that responds to their interventions.  Students are able to apply the book knowledge they learn in the classroom to a simulated, realistic environment. Students also are able to develop better psychomotor skills, critical thinking skills, and improve response time in true emergencies. 

In making the grant to UMFK, the trustees of the Davis Educational Foundation complimented UMFK’s Enhancing Birthing and Neonatal Care Nursing Program as “well developed and meeting a real need for the University and surrounding communities.” 

The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’ retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. 

“I was delighted to submit this proposal to the Davis Educational Foundation,” said UMFK president, Dr. Richard W. Cost. “I was privileged to know Mr. and Mrs. Davis when I worked in Massachusetts. As indicated on the Foundation’s website, the foundation is an expression of their shared support and value for higher education.  The Davis Foundations including the Davis Family Foundation, the Davis Educational Foundation and the Davis Conservation Foundation look at every proposal in terms of its specific impact on institutions and the people they serve. Foundation Trustees do their homework and ask many questions to insure that their grants will indeed make a difference.  

“For UMFK, this simulator will make a significant difference in the preparation of our students and hence on their ability to serve the communities where they will be employed as nurses. On behalf of this University, the community of Fort Kent, and all of the medical centers in northern Maine, we express our heartfelt thanks to the Trustees of the Davis Educational Foundation. This is a marvelous gift that will have impacts far into the future,” Dr. Cost added.  

The Enhancing Birthing and Neonatal Education project incorporates new learning technologies into the Nursing curriculum at UMFK.  The technologies fill an educational gap in labor and delivery, as well as neonatal care.  

The low birth rate in the Fort Kent area naturally leads to a lack of opportunity to treat obstetrical and neonatal patients.  This will be remedied, with a patient simulator designed for just this purpose.  The tools and equipment needed to treat these virtual “patients” also are needed, as the current tools that UMFK does own do not simulate real-life obstetrical scenarios.  The generous grant from the Davis Education Foundation will allow UMFK to purchase the simulation mannequins and the equipment needed to “treat” the new patients. 

UMFK students lack practical situations where they experience different complications and use the tools and equipment designed for these emergencies.  This program addresses these needs. 

Once in use, simulators will impact recruiting and retention of nurses.  The technology will be maintained by revenues from increased student enrollment and nominal fees for in-service trainings.      

As a result of the project, new nurses will receive enhanced training in low-frequency, high priority skills, which in turn will lead to better care for women in labor, newborn infants, and critical care patients.  

UMFK offers the only Bachelor of Science degree program in Nursing in Aroostook County.  Graduates of the UMFK Nursing Program consistently perform at the top of all colleges and universities within the state of Maine for first-time pass rates on the NCLEX-RN, the national licensure examination for registered nurses.   

Additionally, unlike other bachelor degree in nursing programs, nursing majors at UMFK are accepted into the nursing major right away and take at least one nursing course each semester.   

As the UMFK pass rate of 97% on the NCLEX-RN examination proves, once in the program, the quality of education nurses receive is excellent.  Getting more students to this point is a major goal of the project.   

The Enhancing Birthing and Neonatal Education program will increase the academic and experiential qualities of nursing education specifically for maternity and infant care, and also will positively impact retention and enrollment rates in the Nursing program at UMFK.  The improved capabilities in simulation will improve student learning and lead to more and better nurses in Maine.   

Although not intended as a replacement for a practical rotation, it will increase the educational experience for the nurses, taking them through multiple scenarios that can occur.  Student nurses will go from simulated laboratory experiences to the specialized clinical areas with greater knowledge and expertise.  

Infant care will also be enhanced, especially in cases where special needs or higher level medical intervention may be necessary.  This will be accomplished with the infant simulator designed for just this purpose. Upon acquisition and installation, both technologies will immediately be employed as a requirement of the program. 

Because of the high educational quality of the nursing program, UMFK needs to recruit and retain students in the BSN program to meet the need for qualified, highly-skilled, nurses in Maine.   

The new equipment will help UMFK Admissions Staff, Student Success Coordinator, and Nursing Faculty to market the program in Maine and beyond, with the net effect of producing more well-qualified nurses. 

In this age of technology, students expect to use high-quality tools, and this is especially true in medical training.  

Registered nurses are among the occupations with the most job vacancies in Maine’s more rural regions.  Hospitals report that shortages of nurses and other health care workers reduce their inpatient, outpatient, and emergency department capacity. 

Studies published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing show that the more education nurses have, the better the patient outcome.  While Registered Nurse (RN) status can be gained with an associate level degree, the BSN is often preferred.