WILTON, Maine — The next chapter in Beal University's history has begun in a town roughly 100 miles away from its main campus in Bangor.
The university opened a new location in Wilton last year and is hoping its nursing program helps solve a decades-long problem in the state.
“The nursing shortage is a very real problem, not only nationally but particularly here in Maine," program director Joseph Amoral said.
Like all nursing schools, Beal's students spend many hours in hospitals and nursing homes for clinical training. Over the years, Amoral heard from staff at health centers in western Maine that said they needed help.
The new campus in Wilton will not only help staff those health centers but also provide nursing education for Mainers who don't live close to other schools.
"I live 10 minutes away, so I thought this would be a great opportunity," Jay resident Hannah Demillo said. “I’m excited to help take care of people.”
Last Thursday, Demillo and her classmates were ready for a typical day. All students use virtual reality technology that simulates specific situations they may encounter on the job.
Amoral said Beal introduced that technology to Maine. The school also has lifelike manikins for more simulation experience.
Even Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, tried it out when he visited the campus last week.
“That was really an amazing teaching tool," King said after wearing the virtual reality headset. "Seeing a facility like this, at its full capacity can turn out 100 nurses a year, is a godsent for Maine."
Once the Wilton location has full class sizes, both campuses expect to graduate roughly 200 nurses per year.
It's also a chance for mothers like Brooke-Lynn Millbury from Wilton to make a difference in her community. She said she wanted to get into the field after watching nurses take care of her own mother.
“I need to do it for myself, but I also need to do it for [my kids], so they have a role model to look up to when they’re older," she added.
Millbury also added having the convenience of driving just down the road for work and school not only saves time and money but also takes a lot of stress off her.
Millbury and Demillo also said they've made connections with their classmates that will last a lifetime, and very soon they'll be the next wave of front-line workers across Maine.