LEWISTON, Maine — At some point, we will all need the assistance of a nurse in our lives. The nursing shortage across the state of Maine has been an ongoing issue.

Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston is offering new incentives to retain their nurses, offering tuition reimbursement, $15,000 as a signing bonus for experienced nurses, and other career programs aimed to retain their staff.

Warren Johnson is a student at the Maine College of Health Professions. 

“Every day I learn something, I get to use compassion, kindness, my patients are happy to see me, I’m happy to them go home,” said Johnson.

Johnson is finishing his last practical at Central Maine Healthcare to become a full-time nurse and help reduce the critical nurse gap the hospital has.

“We have a growing demographic in our population of older folks who are needing more and more healthcare and at the same time our younger nurses as they graduate are moving out of state,” said Michele Talka, the Chief Human Resource Officer at Central Maine Healthcare. 

Talka says many nursing students are graduating and moving out of state but the aging population in Maine is growing, also the current nursing population at the hospital is aging and retiring. All of those forces combined are creating a critical nursing shortage.

“Recruitment is very important to us, but so is retention,” said Mary-Anne Ponti, the Chief Nursing Officer at Central Maine Healthcare.

There are 90 nurse positions open just at Central Maine Healthcare.

“The economy is quite strong, so we don’t have that counterforce that was keeping more nurses in the workforce when the economy was struggling back in the mid-2000s,” said Ponti.

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Many of the current nurses are over 50 years old and are preparing to retire in the not too distant future.

“It’s actually a critical issue for every business in the state because if they are interested in having healthcare services available for their team members and their families, we have to have enough nurses,” said Talka.

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