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Community college system approves LPN program, new master plan at NMCC

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Maine Community College System Board of Trustees visited Northern Maine Community College Wednesday, signing off on NMCC’s new licensed practical nurse certificate program and long-term master plan.

NMCC president Tim Crowley said that the community college ran a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, program for many years before deactivating it in 2012, but decided to revive a new LPN certificate program in response to the needs of nursing and rehabilitation health care centers.

“We’re excited about it,” Crowley said Wednesday. “We’ve met with nursing home and rehab facility owners, supervisors and managers, and they’re saying they need someone between a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, and an RN.”

LPNs often provide basic nursing and patient care at a more complex level than a nursing assistant but with less responsibilities than a registered nurse.

If approved by the Maine State Board of Nursing, NMCC’s program would be the only LPN program in the state. Some hospitals have phased out their employment of LPNs, but many nursing homes, rehab centers and long-term care facilities continue to rely on them.  

“The industry is calling for that,” Crowley said. “As our population gets older, the demand for those services increases and the need for the LPN is going to grow.”

Employing LPNs in nursing centers “allows RNs to work at the top of their license,” Crowley said, at a time when there is a shortage of registered nurses and other allied health professionals in rural Maine.

“RNs are educated to work at the top of their license, and when they do things less than that, it’s not really utilizing their expertise. Putting this LPN program in place will allow that to happen.”

NMCC’s LPN program would be a 41 week-long certificate program that would let someone go through training in less than a year. Graduates would then have to undergo licensing through the Maine State Board of Nursing.

Crowley said the LPN program also could serve as a pathway for students who want to later become registered nurses and complete NMCC’s associates degree in nursing.

“If a student wanted to go from the certificate to the associate’s program, they could make that shift and transfer most of those credits.”

NMCC’s nursing program has 32 students in each of its two cohorts and is full every year, Crowley said. “That was one the reasons to add the LPN program.”

The college also has allied health programs in medical assisting, emergency medicine and paramedicine, and a health information technology program offered in collaboration with Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield.

During their visit Wednesday, the Maine Community College System Board of Trustees also learned about NMCC’s new master plan for the next 15 years. NMCC offers 37 degree programs and serves about 880 full and part-time students.

“We spent the last two years doing a ‘SWOT’ analysis, looking at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,” Crowley said.

Based upon that work and in consultation with the college’s accreditation organization, NMCC developed a strategic plan to guide its work into the future, Crowley said.

Among the goals set in the plan are: improving the use of education and technology, and increasing the college’s retention and graduation rates, Crowley said.  

“A lot of the enrollment questions and growth questions are really about changing the technology we work with so we can deliver instruction at a distance. We’re doing that in nursing now and we need to do it in other areas.”

According to NMCC statistics for 2017, the college had a retention rate of 54 percent — meaning 54 percent of first year, full-time students enrolled in the fall of 2016 returned in in the fall of 2017. For students who first enrolled in 2014, NMCC had a graduation rate of 45 percent with another 11 percent of students transferring to other institutions.

Across the Maine Community College System, the graduation rate for the same year’s cohort was 25 percent and the transfer rate 18 percent.

“Maintaining and growing the quality of what we do is very important,” Crowley said. He said the college needs to retain more students who will start and finish. That too is “a part of the plan.”

Crowley also mentioned that the NMCC community is hoping that Maine voters will approve ballot Question 5 this November, which would generate $15 million in investments for the state’s seven community colleges.

Of that $15 million, approximately $1.2 million would be slated for NMCC to help upgrade facilities and programs, including equipment purchases for the college’s diesel hydraulics program and heating and ventilation work at the Andrew’s student residence hall.

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