PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Aroostook County is experiencing a shortage of nurses and other health care workers, a problem that health care facilities across the nation are facing together.

Now, reaching out and educating northern Maine students who are interested in entering allied health programs will be much easier thanks to a significant federal grant awarded to Northern Maine Community College.

College officials announced Monday afternoon that the campus has received a $101,161 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NMCC President Tim Crowley said Monday that the funding was championed by U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, R-Maine. The money will be used at the Presque Isle campus to renovate the 1,170-square-foot Christie lecture hall. The work will modernize the facility and equip NMCC’s largest classroom with technology to both transmit and receive courses through videoconferencing.

The campus will purchase videoconferencing and related technology, along with new furnishings and a new flooring surface for the Christie lecture hall. NMCC applied for the money more than a year ago to enhance the educational opportunities in allied health in northern Maine and to assist area health care organizations.

“We are very excited about this and very appreciative to Senators Snowe and Collins for helping us secure this funding,” Crowley said Monday. “They put a lot of work into this, and it is going to be a huge asset to the college and current and prospective students.”

Offerings in the associate degree nursing program are at the top of the list of courses to be delivered and received in the enhanced lecture hall, according to Crowley. At this point, the college has outgrown the existing classroom space currently used both to teach and to transmit its nursing courses to sites in Houlton and Calais, and in the fall of 2009, to the St. John Valley.

The space was not originally designed to incorporate distance learning technology.

Crowley said the renovation of the lecture hall will “not only help us better meet existing demand in the region for our nursing curriculum, but will allow for expansion in other course and program offerings in allied health and sciences, as well as other academic and career training programs.”

As well as serving students enrolled in allied health programs at NMCC, the enhanced lecture hall and its distance learning technology will be available to local hospitals and other health care facilities throughout The County. Other academic programs at the college, including offerings coordinated through the continuing education division which are designed to enhance County work force development, also will benefit from the facility.

For the past few years, NMCC has been expanding its allied health program offerings. During the past two years, the college has introduced programs in medical assisting and medical coding. College officials are looking at future expansion in areas such as physical therapy assisting, occupational therapy assisting and radiography, all of which could originate at distant sites and be transmitted to students at NMCC.

“I was pleased to support this effort to enhance allied health education and training at Northern Maine Community College,” Collins said in a written statement. “Like many other states, Maine faces a nursing shortage of critical proportions. I am hopeful that the enhanced facility will help address that need and allow even more students to follow their dreams of a career in medicine in Aroostook County.”

“This is great news for Northern Maine Community College and the many students who will directly benefit from this funding,” Snowe said. “By providing students with these resources, we are giving them the tools they need to advance in the future and expanding the opportunities available to them.”

Crowley said he hopes the renovation project will begin in November.

Snowe and Collins also announced the following funds awarded in Maine:

ä $139,097 to Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth for maintenance of the health care facility.

ä $144,081 to Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor for research for mothers and children as part of the course in medical and experimental mammalian genetics.

ä $196,483 to FHC Inc. in Bowdoin, a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to be used for clinical research related to neurological disorders.

ä $50,000 to Medical Care Development Inc. Augusta, a Center for Substance Abuse Prevention grant.

ä $36,799 to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, a First Time Motherhood-New Parents Initiative.

ä $324,093 to Maine Primary Care Association in Augusta for an electronic health record implementation initiative.

ä $132,288 to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland to improve the institute’s health care facility.