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No nursing program nearby? No problem.

G1.jpgA three-hour drive from Greenville to Bangor and back, four days a week. That’s what stood in the way of Alaina Cates, a medical assistant at Northern Light CA Dean Hospital, becoming a registered nurse. With her job at the hospital, and two daughters and a husband at home, furthering her education in the Bangor area just wasn’t an option. Now, thanks to a collaboration between Northern Light CA Dean Hospital and Eastern Maine Community College, Alaina is well on her way to earning her nursing degree.

“I live five minutes down the road from the hospital and I don’t think I’d be able to do this if I had to travel,” says Alaina.

Alaina and two other Greenville-area students connect to classrooms at Eastern Maine Community College using video conferencing technology located at Northern Light CA Dean Hospital. They attend class virtually on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and complete their clinical rotations at the hospital on Thursdays and Fridays.

The virtual option to pursue a nursing degree is a career advancement opportunity for certified nursing assistants and medical assistants. Northern Light CA Dean Hospital has a relatively stable nursing workforce, but many nurses are nearing the end of their careers and the hospital will need new nurses, while retaining the nurses it already has, to meet patient demand.

“The retention rate is much higher for a local person,” says Lorraine Rodgerson, RN, vice president of Nursing and Operations at Northern Light CA Dean Hospital. “A lot of new grads that you hire will treat critical access hospitals as a jumping off point. If they’re not invested in the community, they’ll probably last a year before they move on. This is our attempt to train people who are committed to working and staying in Greenville.”

The three students currently enrolled in the program are in their second semester and anticipate earning their associate degrees in 2020. Two of the students are Northern Light CA Dean Hospital employees and plan to transition to nursing roles at the hospital after earning their degrees; one student is a community member who enrolled after moving from Bar Harbor to the Greenville area to care for her ailing father.

Brittany Gould, RN, director of Clinical Services at Northern Light CA Dean Hospital, oversees the students’ clinical rotations and monitors their exams. She’s routinely available to answer questions and help them work through problems. Having access to an experienced nurse leader who is invested in their development has been key to the students’ success.
 
“Brittany has been wonderful,” adds Alaina. “She’s been there every step of the way. She’s been so welcoming and accommodating.”

While most of the students’ coursework and clinical rotations can be done in Greenville, they’ll spend four days at Northern Light Acadia Hospital and complete 24 hours of hands-on simulation training in Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Simulation Center. Having access to the resources at several Northern Light Health members makes their training more diverse and comprehensive.
 
Eastern Maine Community College has a similar collaboration with Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, and the college plans to offer the virtual option at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital beginning in the fall of 2019.
 
As for Alaina, she plans to transition into a nursing role at CA Dean Hospital when she earns her degree. She’s grateful for the opportunity to stay in Greenville and pursue her career goals, close to home.

“This is where my family is, where I’ve created a life,” she says. “This opportunity has been a blessing.”