$5M project at St. Joseph's College will address nursing shortage

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STANDISH — Saint Joseph’s College announced Tuesday that a $5 million Center for Nursing Excellence is planned at the Sebago Lake campus.

The center will offer new degree programs, including a doctorate in nursing practice, new labs, improved labs, a learning center and nursing scholarships for Maine students.

The college earned a $1.5 million challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to help fund the new center. College officials also hope to raise $3.5 million to match the grant, according to Jeanne Arnold, member of the SJC board of trustees and co-chairwoman of the Alfond Challenge for The Center for Nursing Excellence at SJC.

James Dlugos, Saint Joseph’s College president, said the $1.5 million grant will impact the entire college.

The grant “demonstrates the Alfond trustees’ faith in the college’s leadership, strategic direction, and value not only to Maine students, but as a vital part of Maine’s identity and economic well being. This gift will have a major impact on the entire campus as the Center for Nursing Excellence entails renovation of Mercy Hall, one of the cornerstones of our campus and academic community,” Dlugos said.    

The college said renovation of Mercy Hall will begin in summer 2018.

“The Center for Nursing Excellence involves renovating existing classroom spaces and so must occur over the summer,” said Joanne Bean, vice president of advancement at Saint Joseph’s.

The new Center for Nursing Excellence is aimed at addressing what the college calls in a press release “current, critical shortages in Maine’s nursing workforce.”

The college cited research that indicated 43 percent of the aging nurse workforce will retire soon and 74 percent of nursing faculty have reached a retirement cliff.

“We already have a Family Nurse Practitioner program, but we plan also to phase in an FNP with acute care specialization by 2018. Then we plan to add a doctorate in nursing practice, ” Bean said.

The college said the new ACNP program would launch with as many as two dozen students.

“With Maine’s aging population, the need to provide health care services for our seniors will continue to grow. It is critical that we support in-state programs such as the Center for Nursing Excellence at Saint Joseph’s College to ensure that we have a strong, growing, well-trained workforce to meet these needs,” said Jeanne Paquette, commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor.

The new center will also include the expansion of five laboratories, which mimic hospital and home-care settings. The college also plans on renovating and enhancing anatomy and physiology labs, as well as microbiology labs used by nursing majors.

Bean said the new labs could open as soon as 2019.

A Nursing Advising and Collaborative Learning Center is also planned. It will encompass an entire floor dedicated to students’ needs, includes advising offices, a conference room, and a collaborative learning space.

The college – which includes 1,226 nursing students, both on campus and online – also hopes to expand nursing scholarship opportunities for Maine students.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

A laboratory at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. The new Center for Nursing Excellence will feature five new state-of-the-art labs.

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