Saint Joseph’s College has received a $1.5 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to support the creation of a new academic center in Standish to address critical shortages in Maine’s nursing workforce.

According to the foundation, the number of Maine nurses on the verge of retirement is up significantly, with nearly three-fourths nearing retirement age.

Meanwhile, demand for home health care, nursing home and hospital workers in Maine is expected to surge through 2024, and industry leaders say they already are facing worker shortages ranging from entry-level caretakers to top administrators.

A Maine Department of Labor report issued in September anticipates a need for at least 3,700 more workers in ambulatory health care services, 2,300 in hospitals and 1,900 in nursing and residential care facilities by 2024.

In partnership with the lead investment from the Alfond Foundation, the Saint Joseph’s College Center for Nursing Excellence will respond directly to those needs, the foundation said Tuesday. The grant provides critical funding for expanded nursing simulation labs that will be the cornerstone of the new academic center. Nursing simulation labs are designed to give students hands-on clinical experience through simulated interactions in areas of medicine such as intensive care, pediatrics and maternity. The college intends to use the grant to raise an additional $3.5 million to fully fund the program’s expansion.

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