Can I be a nurse with an anxiety disorder?

  1. Hello!
    My name is Elizabeth and I am new to the group. I am a former special education teacher passionately interested in pursuing nursing as a second career. I worked with students with health impairments and enjoyed the nursing-type tasks of learning trachea care, activities of daily living, g-tube feedings, med management, etc. I felt I was good at it and good in an emergency. I have been interested passionately about applying to nursing school for years.

    The problem is I have an anxiety disorder. Is it possible to be a successful nurse with an anxiety disorder? I can handle emergencies, procedures, and bodily fluids but get anxious with fast pace and conflict that may arrive with patients families and coworkers. I have made a lot of progress over the years with therapy and medication but wonder if it to its enough. I am good in an emergency but often crash and burn after the fact. I have random physical panic attacks that I am working of getting under control. I am also passionate about helping the sick, advancements in medical care and helping individuals get through tough situations. If feel like if it were not for the anxiety I would make a good nurse. Are there other nurses with anxiety disorders out there? How are you coping? Is it possible to be a successful nurse while fighting anxiety or is it best to give up on this dream? Thanks for your advice!
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  2. 10 Comments

  3. by   VivaLasViejas
    Welcome to Allnurses! We're glad you're here.

    Yes, a lot of nurses suffer from anxiety disorders (myself included) and still manage to have good careers. It sounds like you've done your homework on what you will face as a nurse---fast pace, potential conflicts with patients/families etc.---and your background as a teacher will be of great help to you because you've dealt with all of that. It is also normal to crash and burn after an emergency is over; as long as you can maintain your presence of mind during one, which you've shown that you can do, you should do just fine as a nurse.

    Continue with your therapy and medication. They may need a little tweaking but that, of course, is up to your doctor. You sound well-suited to nursing; I think you should go for it. Best of luck!
  4. by   Elizabeth Lewis
    Thank you for your feedback and encouragement! It is helpful!
  5. by   Cheyenne RN,BSHS
    Welcome to AN. A great many of us out here in cyber-land that never had anxiety issues before certainly developed full blown panic attacks that started in nursing school. LOL.
  6. by   datalore
    I've had an anxiety disorder basically from the moment I popped out the womb! I had to wait til I got mine under control enough to finally follow my passion. Sounds like you're working hard. My only additional advice would be that different care settings offer very different pace and frequency of emergencies. Even different med-surg units within one hospital! Shadow in different settings if you can; see the pace, see how often staff find themselves in Codes and emergencies; etc. Also, not that night shift is great for anxiety (I.e. Sleep deprivation!) but there's very little family conflict at night vs at day shift. As you continue down your path, keep working hard like you are, keep your needs in mind and see as many settings as you can til you find ones that will help you keep your anti-anxiety gains as you follow your passion. Good luck, and know you're not alone <3
  7. by   Skippingtowork
    I have dealth with many people who have anxiety disorders, some chronic and others triggered by certain stimuli. There are lots of people working with anxiety, but are very successful. Sometimes, in the health care setting, just being very knowledgeable about the clinical aspects of what you're doing helps reduce anxiety. Knowing your triggers and signs of impending anxiety attack can put you on the offense to abort the attack. You're probably knowledgeable about little exercises you can do in the moment. Don't wing it. Have a plan for dealing with emotional emergencies. This can decrease any negatives of the attack. Sometimes admitting your disorder to co-workers can help. Others can intervene smoothly with parents if they see a situation going south, or you can seek their help. I worked with a nurse who was very good, but had anxiety issues. We learned to communicate with her differently and support and defend her with families and MDs. She was very loved by her co-workers. If you have been successful during emergencies, you can be successful in nursing. And if you can work with children and their parents in school............!

    God bless you. I love to hear about people desiring and willing to follow their passions, despite personal difficulties. Rooting for you
  8. by   everchangingRN
    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    Welcome to Allnurses! We're glad you're here.

    Yes, a lot of nurses suffer from anxiety disorders (myself included) and still manage to have good careers. It sounds like you've done your homework on what you will face as a nurse---fast pace, potential conflicts with patients/families etc.---and your background as a teacher will be of great help to you because you've dealt with all of that. It is also normal to crash and burn after an emergency is over; as long as you can maintain your presence of mind during one, which you've shown that you can do, you should do just fine as a nurse.

    Continue with your therapy and medication. They may need a little tweaking but that, of course, is up to your doctor. You sound well-suited to nursing; I think you should go for it. Best of luck!
    I too have an anxiety disorder and take medication. It's under control right now but I do notice I am overy sensitive at times. Breathe. Take a break here and there if you can. I think you can do it! Best of luck!! If you need to talk, I'm here :-)
  9. by   Danielle9515
    Elizabeth, I am also new to allnurses. I think people who have anxiety can be great nurses, but just like all things involving anxiety, it makes things a little more complicated. I actually got diagnosed with anxiety while I was going through nursing school and truly learned what ambiguous "anxiety" was for the first time. But, I have been able to work through it!

    I found that it took a lot of trial and error (and learning experiences) to find ways for me to not become overwhelmed and panicked with school and work. I had to be on medication during nursing school and in the beginning of my career but now only as needed. I am still anxious before every shift (especially the first four hours of my shift). When I was orienting, I was having a difficult time with time-management and not being overwhelmed with one of my main preceptor until I got paired (last minute) with another nurse who also had anxiety and it was the best thing that could have happened to me as a new grad. She was just able to explain to me what she does and how she handles certain situations and it helped immensely.

    You seem to be very open and willing to work through your anxiety so I have no doubt that you will be able to go through nursing school and your career! That being said, it will be difficult and your anxiety will probably get worse in the beginning but you will be able to work through it as you learn and gain experience. You should do what makes you happy! I wish you the best!
    Last edit by Danielle9515 on Apr 12 : Reason: changed words
  10. by   RNOTODAY
    I personally don't KNOW any nurse who has no anxiety . As long as you can function in the moment, you can do it. But don't slack on getting care for your anxiety- if your gonna be a RN, there's going to be lots more of it . Good luck
  11. by   Elizabeth Lewis
    Thank you for your reply and encouragement! I signed up for some pre-requisite classes at a local community college to start my journey. I hope during nursing school I can develop the skills and coping techniques to be a great RN. Thank you for your response.
  12. by   Elizabeth Lewis
    Thank you for your wonderful comment! Sorry for the late response, I just found your comment. Your tips were helpful. I registered for pre-requisite classes to nursing school to start my journey. I hope my journey will help me to develop strong coping skills to be a great RN. Thanks for your support and rooting for me!

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