AUGUSTA — There will be jobs for new registered nurses – just not quite yet, according to a new report from the Maine Department of Labor.

The state will need 17,045 registered nurses in 2016, about 3,000 more than were employed in 2008, according to projections in the department’s “Workforce Analysis of Maine’s Health Services Sector.”

But the nursing profession, which accounts for 24 percent of the state’s total health care work force, has grown slowly of late – a 1.3 percent average annual gain from 2004 through 2008.

During the same period, physicians and surgeons, as a category, grew by an average 12 percent a year and pharmacist positions grew by 8.5 percent. Only jobs for licensed practical nurses and emergency medical technicians grew slower than registered nurses, with an average 3.8 percent loss during the period.

Because nurses are an important part of the health care sector in Maine, the trend of nursing jobs is being watched closely.

Kevin Healey, vice president for human resources for St. Mary’s Health Systems in Lewiston, said the data in the report will be invaluable to him.

“I’ve been encountering some frustrated new nurses who can’t find jobs,” he said.

Healey said the data and long-term view will help show that nurses will be needed.

“There’s so much activity going on around health care in Maine right now,” said Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman. “We gather data and then provide that information to policy makers so some good decisions can be made.”

Health care professions account for 17 percent of total employment in Maine and 18 percent of the wages, said Paul Leparulo, a senior economic research analyst who wrote the “Workforce Analysis” report.

Leparulo said the health care industry as a whole is expected to gain 9,500 jobs statewide through 2018.

He cited the health care professionals who are most needed – surgeons, psychiatrists, dentists and cardiovascular technicians — and said the shortages are greatest in the rural counties.

John Dorrer, director of the department’s Center for Workforce Research & Information, said health care is one of state’s largest industries.

“Even in the economic downturn, it kept adding employment,” he said. “We are in the midst of a recession still, and for RNs, while demand has dropped, it is still very much at the top of the list.”

Dr. Lois Hamel of St. Joseph’s College in Standish said the school is rapidly filling a new master’s nursing program that has been available for five months and already has 50 students.

“We will need managers, we will need nursing faculty, we will need nurse practitioners,” she said. “They’re our future teachers. Our faculty are the oldest in the nation.”

Ann Sossong of the University of Maine School of Nursing said the nursing community is asking, “What does a nurse look like for 2015?”

Dorrer said the “Workforce Analysis” will help employers and workers make decisions.

He said that last month, department records showed that half of Maine’s job openings were in health care, but at least half the job seekers didn’t have skills in the health care area.

“It’s hard to take people who have a history in manufacturing and move them into health care,” Dorrer said.


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