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UMFK nursing students walking to combat nationwide nursing shortage

March 7, 2003


University of Maine at Fort Kent nursing students are hoping to raise awareness about the nationwide shortage in their future profession and to promote health and wellness, when they participate in the March Into May program, a walkathon, on March 29, that will raise money for a nursing scholarship.

The UMFK Student Nursing Organization (SNO) and the general nursing student body will be participating in the event and are seeking sponsorship funds that will benefit future generations of nurses.

The March Into May program is designed to motivate community members to increase physical activity by participating in a worksite activity program. It came about during a Blaine House Summit held in October of 2000, where then Governor Angus King challenged Mainers to improve the alarming statistics related to chronic disease within the state. March into May is one effective way to promote the Campaign for a Healthy Maine and has been recognized as a best practice for increasing physical activity in the workplace.

The program was adapted from March into May, a ten-week behavior change program developed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program is ideal because it recognizes that people are at varying levels of fitness, and can be customized for personal activity status. Participants can set personal goals based on their level of fitness and are encouraged to strive to be active 30 minutes per day at for at least four days per week.

According to the Healthy Maine workbook, cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and/or diabetes take the life of three out of four Mainers. Factors that greatly influence these chronic diseases are poor nutrition, tobacco addiction and lack of physical activity.

They also report that more than three quarters of Maine adults (76%) do not participate in adequate physical activity, more than half of Maine adults (56.3%) reported being overweight in 2000 based on Body Mass Index of 25 or more.

Employees with sedentary lifestyles have ten percent higher healthcare costs than those who have active lifestyles. Worksite health promotion and intervention can be cost-effective. Savings are related to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, and lower health care costs.

SNO and the nursing students will use the walkathon to raise awareness of the problem of a nationwide nursing shortage.

The United States is in the midst of a nursing shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. According to the latest projections from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics more than one million new and replacement nurses will be needed by the year 2010.

Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to maintain enrollment levels which remain insufficient to meet the projected demand for nursing care.

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the number of first-time, U.S. educated nursing school graduates who sat for the NCLEX-RX, the national licensure examination for registered nurses, decreased by 28.7 percent from 1995 to 2001.

Other contributing factors that have lead to the nursing shortage are a shrinking number of nursing school faculty that restricts nursing program enrollments, the total population of registered nurses is growing at the slowest rate in 20 years, changing demographics signal a need for more nurses to care for our aging population, and job burnout and dissatisfaction due to nurses being responsible for more patients than they can safely care, which in turn drives nurses to leave the profession. All of these factors are affecting access to quality health care.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is concerned about the nursing shortage. They are working with member schools, policy makers, organizations and the media to bring attention to this health care crisis.

Strategies have been put into place by several organizations such as the Call to the Profession, a group of top leaders from national nursing organizations who are working together to ensure safe, quality nursing care for consumers and a sufficient supply of registered nurses to deliver that care. Other organizations working on strategies to eliminate nursing shortages are the TriCouncil for Nursing, and the Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow.

In April of 2001, a coalition of 23 national nursing organizations issued a joint call to Congress to stem the nursing shortage. The group released a comprehensive plan to address the shortage entitled Assuring Quality Health Care for the United States: Supporting Nurse Education and Training that outlined funding priorities and called for new initiatives to recruit and retain nurses.

Nursing is the nation's largest healthcare field with 2.5 million registered nurses (RN) nationwide, and the demand for nurses grows in the wake of a national nursing shortage.

Employment for registered nurses will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2008. The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 21 percent increase in the need for nurses nationwide from 1998 through 2008, compared with a 14 percent increase for all other occupations.

Most healthcare services involve some form of care by nurses, and research shows that more nurses at the bedside improve patient outcomes.

Furthermore the baccalaureate trained nurse is the only basic nursing graduate prepared to practice in all health care settings such as critical care, ambulatory care, public health, and mental health, and thus has the greatest employment flexibility of any entry-level RN.

A record number, forty one entering freshman were among those enrolled in the nursing program at UMFK last fall.

UMFK will be holding their annual Nursing Open House on April 14, to introduce prospective nurses and others interested in working in the healthcare profession to career and education options. It will also give students the opportunity to meet professionals in the nursing field, and to hear about the UMFK nursing program. This marks the second year that the admissions department and the nursing division have collaborated on this event.

Scholarships can serve as a recruitment tool to attract students into this worthwhile profession, and the UMFK nursing students are doing their part to help provide a scholarship that would assist students entering the nursing field.

You can help combat the nursing shortage by sponsoring a nursing student and help raise money for a UMFK Nursing Scholarship.

For more information or to sponsor a student, contact Erin Soucy at 834-7830.