Is nursing a realistic career for a person with autoimmune disease?

  1. Hi, I am currently taking some prerequisites for a nursing program, but I am having a lot of second thoughts. This is long, so I apologize, but I hope someone will respond.

    I am trying to talk to as many nurses as possible and I need more input on this. I have Hashimoto's and some fibromyalgia-like pain and stress seems to severely impact my energy. Other than that I am really, generally a very healthy, fit person (I run and lift weights, and I'm mentally sharp). I am 40 years old and I already have a graduate degree in another field. I thought I was losing my mind and struggled with career issues, I always felt exhausted in every job. I was finally diagnosed with thyroid disease 2 years ago and since getting my meds right, I am now able to reclaim my life. I have thought about going into nursing and started taking the prereqs to apply for the program.

    However, I feel that there is a real problem with rigidity in the nursing schools, not wanting to deal with people who might be good nurses but don't fit well in the traditional stressful format of nursing school. I was SO turned off in my first "nursing" class last Friday. We have to take a nurse assisting class- an extra hoop they decided to have us jump through. I'm not opposed to learning what NAs do, in fact I think it's great to learn what the people you rely on have to do.

    But the professors really rubbed me the wrong way. They seem indifferent to the students needs for information about the program, they don't seem like they want to help. It almost feels abusive. I am considering scrapping the whole thing.

    I am (was?) considering nursing for the following reasons:
    1. I like that there are many opportunities to do different things
    2. I love to help people who have health problems (I am currently a personal trainer but I only take clients who have health challenges that necessitate modified exercise routines, and I *LOVE* working with these clients)
    3. I need the job security and benefits that I can't get while self-employed and at the mercy of a sagging economy
    4. I want to be able to work anywhere and I'd really like to do nursing part-time, and in a non-traditional setting (not in a hospital)

    I feel I have the following weaknesses:
    1. I am energy-challenged at times, especially when I am stressed for extended periods of time. I can deal with acutely stressful events, but it seems that things that wear on me (like a heavy course load at school, for example, or continued sleep deprivation) really affect me. When my meds are right on, I can accomplish everything I want to, but when I start to get hypothyroid (or overtired or overstressed) everything falls apart.

    2. And maybe, thoguh this isn't necessarily a weakness, I feel like I am a square peg that won't fit in the round holes of nursing. I just feel like they make it unnecessarily stressful. There must be jobs out there in nursing that aren't so stressful. I can't see myself doing 12 hour shifts. I don't even understand 12 hour shifts. That seems crazy- how would you have time to eat, exercise, sleep, see your family? No wonder nurses get sick and burned out!

    Isn't nursing about helping people? Isn't it about helping people to achieve a better state of wellness? Seems to me there's this bass-ackwards approach to the whole profession. I hear of so much stress and burnout, and so many unhealthy nurses who drop out of the profession due to stress. No wonder there's a shortage? Maybe instead of the go-go-go approach and always turning up the volume on stress, we ought to slow down and take it at a slower pace.

    Anyway, do you think I'm going the wrong way by choosing nursing?

    Does anyone know of any schools that take things at a slower pace?

    BuffaloMom (in Arizona)
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   Tweety
    Don't ruin your health. Sounds like you're already doing something you love and are finding out the realities of nursing isn't matching your expectations on what it "should" be.

    There are all kinds of shifts out there from 4 hours to 16 hours. 12 hours is getting to be the norm, but that's what the majority of people want. (That's my major complaint about working 12 hour shifts is no time to exercise or do my yoga class, but I like having 4 days off.)

    If you think nursing and health care is about wellness, you're dead wrong. If you think nurses are healthy, your dead wrong. If stress aggravates your condition, get out now.
  4. by   MST
    Hi buffaloMom,
    3rd shiftGuy is right nursing is very stressfull. I have not heard of any schools that allow for a slower pace or that are not abusive. I have been an rn since 1989. I suffered abuses in school like everyone else. TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH. It sounds like you are in a career that you love. It also sounds like you are helping a lot of people that need extra care to acheive a wellness state that can not be reached thru physical therapy or other therapy. As a suggestion : maybe cotract with Dr.s offices about the dr referring their pts to you for exercise and fitness help. This might increase/ stabalize your income until the economy turns aroud.
    I understand about the economy as I own a small buisness and have to work in nursing and the buisness due to the economy. Consider everything carefully/ prayfully. May God give you the right answer for you.
    GOdd Luck and God Bless.
  5. by   Dave ARNP
    There are areas of nursing that wouldn't place the physical demands on you that bedside nursing does.

    I firmly beleive that if nursing/medicine/or fast food work is where you heart is... you need to be there.

    Dave
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I have to say, no.

    nursing school alone may really tax you to illness, the clinical rotations are murder.

    I hate to be a harbinger of bad news, but I am trying to help you out here. I have a friend w/LUPUS who had to quit nursing for that reason. It made her SICK.

    I am sorry, but maybe an allied health area may be better?

    That and being around communicable disease is NOT a good idea for people with your problems. GOOD LUCK AND TAKE GOOD CARE. I am sorry.
  7. by   BuffaloMom
    Thanks for all the replies, it sure sounds like the general consensus is no.

    <heavy sigh>

    That's what I've been hearing from people outside of nursing too. I'd rather figure this out now, though, instead of when I'm in nursing school.

    I'd still like to hear opinions on this. I keep thinking maybe there is a way. I might have to look more carefully at other related things. But it seems like for every person who tells me yes it would be okay, there are 4 or 5 who say don't do it.

    Does anyone know if there are any patient education jobs in health care that don't require a nursing degree?
  8. by   -jt
    <Does anyone know if there are any patient education jobs in health care that don't require a nursing degree?>

    Nutritionists, Pharmacists, Chiropractors, and podiatrists also deal in pt education.

    But there are plenty of working nurses out there with autoimmune diseases. Im one of them. We adjust - if we cant work full time, we work part time or per diem. If hospital nursing is too hard to manage, we work in another area of nursing. We take our meds, take care of ourselves, and utilize stress reduction techniques. If you want to be a nurse, there is no reason why you cant be one just because you have an autoimmune disease. Yes, nursing is stressful --- so is life.
  9. by   angelbear
    I am a nurse and I have fibro. Yes it is difficult but definately doable.
  10. by   caroladybelle
    I have Ulcerative Colitis.

    While the GI symptoms are stable, I have developed the joint disease and lung symptoms that indicate the autoimmune disease is spreading.

    I am also a travelor.

    It is very doable, but you really have to take excellent care of yourself in your off hours, as well maintain a very strict work/school ethic. Eat well, stay well hydrated, take maintenance meds, do not call in unless very very sick. I have only called in for two days in the last two years (febrile, with an infected draining wound from a raccoon bite and had to take gamma globulin/rabies vaccine).

    I find that my health is actually better since developing UC....I take better care of myself, get vaccinated and maintain myself better if I want to live in the manner that I wish.
  11. by   mattsmom81
    Interesting replies. While there ARE less stressful and part time options in nursing, you still must get through the grueling school experience, as mentioned by some. It is probably doable but at what cost to you? Your decision entirely. If you had a bad taste in your mouth at your first class lecture, listen to your heart too. I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis and arthritis and can relate to what you're saying. I work part time and have been a critical care diploma RN for many years. I don't think I could hack fulltime school work now, to be honest. (Which is one reason I am not completing my BSN) Best wishes to you whatever you decide.
  12. by   traumaRUs
    We have a nurse in our ER who has had a kidney transplant a few years ago and she does okay. However, she is scrupulous (sp?) with handwashing.
  13. by   roadie
    Wow this is really a thread I needed to read. I have Hepatitis B. I have had it for 20 yrs with no apparent problems. I have cronic bronchitis and seem to catch every single germ that comes my way. My doctor has had me on so many antibiotics this winter and I still have terrible sinus problems. I work with Mentally Challenged Adults and every 2 wks I catch something from them. I am 38 and have always wanted to be a nurse. I just hate to spend the time and money for nursing school and find out I am not physically able to do it. I had to stop doing hair because I couldnt stand the chemicals and hair spray. I feel so discouraged because there just isnt anything I am interested in besides nursing. What do you all think?
  14. by   mitchsmom
    It sounds like your school probably requires full-time attendance, but some don't. I don't know if that's an option for you. I go part-time, which helps so much. The boot camp attitude is still there, but if you can take a slower pace it helps. I will never understand the stupid (sorry, I really, really think it's dumb) boot camp "I did it, so you should, too" nursing school deal. I think my program sort of prides itself on being new and innovative, so it is probably much less so that way than some others (like the cc in my town that I've heard nightmare stories about)... I'd probably be flipping if I had to put up with what some nursing students do. Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide... there are many areas of nursing, and many allied health areas, too.

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