Nursing, other jobs may face labor shortage in elderly care as baby boomers retire

( Some professions, such as nursing, may face a la­bor shortage as baby boomers begin to retire.

Registered nurses are one of the older work forces in the nation, with a median age of 46. A large group of nurses now in their 50s are expected to retire in 10 to 15 years.

Most nursing schools have increased enrollment to stem future shortages, though it still may not be enough. Five or six years ago, the UAB School of Nursing had about 650 students, said Linda Mon­eyham, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the nursing school.

“Now it’s a little over 1,800.”

But nursing schools across the country turned away 75,587 qualified ap­plicants in 2011 because of insufficient faculty, clini­cal sites and budget, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing says.

“If the economy im­proves, a lot of nurses may retire,” Moneyham said.

Read more: Alabama’s rising gray tide challenges health, financial infrastructure for baby boomers

But the biggest thing is the Affordable Care Act. A lot of people will be com­ing into the health care system. Who’s going to take care of all these peo­ple?”

Besides the need for many more primary care nurse practitioners, “elder care will require more nurses as well,” Money­ham said. “We will need more hospice care, more home care and more palli­ative care, both for dying and chronically ill pa­tients.”

Moneyham said a num­ber of UAB nursing faculty who are eligible to retire have kept on working in­stead, and some retired faculty have came back to work.

Retiree Myra Smith, for example, rejoined the fac­ulty five years ago.

“She took over a special mission, the Veterans Af­fairs Nursing Academy, to prepare the nursing work force to be ready to care for veterans,” Moneyham said.

Moneyham, a baby boomer herself, said she has no plans to retire.

“I think those of us who are fortunate enough to develop our careers so the work is meaningful will continue to work on,” she said. About 22 percent of baby boomers feel the same way, according to AARP, and plan to keep working because it’s inter­esting and enjoyable.

But Moneyham is also mindful of the pitfalls age can bring.

“I tell my best friends, ‘Please watch me,’ ” she said. ” ‘If you think I need to retire, tell me.’ “