AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s health care system is up against staffing challenges, but it’s especially hard on the state's rural hospitals.
Gov. Janet Mills announced June 20 steps to alleviate the struggle in rural Maine by offering a $1.6 million grant program to expand medical training opportunities across the state.
The expansion provides $1.6 million through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to support developing new medical residency programs or expanding already existing programs in underserved parts of the state.
The funding incentivizes expanding clinical sites by paying supervisors and medical providers who take students in and also can provide students with support on essentials such as housing while they complete training.
Dr. James Jarvis, the Director of Clinical Education at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, said this grant could be influential in recruiting workers.
Maine's only medical school at the University of New England is in Biddeford. Medical students can only travel as far north as Bangor at Northern Light EMMC to train.
"Most physicians practice within 100 miles of where they did some training," Jarvis said. "It's much more likely they'll [rural hospitals] be able to recruit those individuals to come and practice."
That was the case with Natalie Ledue. She earned a federal scholarship that had an ultimatum: The scholarship would cover the cost of her master's degree as long as she worked in a rural community for two years post-graduation.
Ledue worked as a nurse practitioner in Copers Mills at Sheepscot Valley Health Center. After her two years, she decided to stay in the community because she felt she formed a connection.
"I've gotten to know my patients and my colleagues, and I feel pretty committed to this community now that I've been here," Ledue said.
The grant also supports training opportunities for a wide range of education or training programs in the medical field including: nursing, certified nursing assistants, behavioral health professionals, pharmacists, physical therapists, physicians, physician assistants, emergency medical services, and dentistry.
This grant program joins other health care recovery efforts by the Mills administration. Mills has allocated $4 million to health care scholarships through her Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan as well as $5 million funding toward Maine community colleges to double enrollment in their nursing programs.
Health care organizations that train students in the health care profession can apply for the grant. The Department of Health and Human Services is accepting applications through Oct. 11.
If interested in applying, you can find more information here.