Sobriety and nursing school interviews

  1. Hi!

    15 years into sobriety, I have taken the first step (pun intended) and applied to two separate nearby nursing schools, a nine month LPN program and a two year RN program, here in Panama City. My test scores were solid. I also have several outstanding recommendations from local healthcare professionals, and an extensive history of volunteer work with the local detox and rehabs. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be meeting academic advisers, counselors, and a selection committee.

    And I have questions concerning my past and how that might affect my future.

    I wanted honest opinions on how upfront and in depth about my past I should be. My bottom was extremely low - homelessness, mental illness, jail. While, I'm open about being a recovering alcoholic, I generally don't go into great detail about my past to people outside the rooms or recovery.

    "Why did you drop out of college?", "Why did you get out of the military?", "Have you ever had a DUI or similar conviction?", Any single question about my past and my alcoholism is out of the bag. Any follow up question only continues to reinforce the fact that, even though, I have 15 years of sobriety, I was and still am an alcoholic.

    While I consider my struggles with alcoholism and mental illness as one of the greatest assets I could possibly have as a nurse in the addiction/chemical dependency field, I understand others, not in recovery, may not view my experiences in the same light.

    I was curious what experiences others in recovery in the nursing community have had and if they had advice.

    Thanks everyone!

  2. Visit afbc profile page

    About afbc

    Joined: Jun '11; Posts: 25; Likes: 53
    from US


  3. by   VivaLasViejas
    First of all: CONGRATULATIONS on staying sober for 15 years!!!!! That is an accomplishment that far too many alcoholics and addicts never achieve---you have much to be proud of, and even more to be thankful for.

    I'm just a little farther down that same road (19 1/2 years), but when I was only 2 years into sobriety, I asked an instructor at the school I was considering attending if my past would be an issue if and when I entered the nursing program. She answered me straightforwardly and truly: "If it's not a problem for you anymore, it won't be a problem for the Board of Nursing". Of course, I had to disclose my legal history when I applied, and then of course when I got my license and for each job I've applied for. But not once in all the years I've been a nurse have I been questioned beyond the usual license-renewal inquiries as to my current state of fitness to practice, nor had to defend my past.

    After this many years on the straight-and-narrow, I don't think you'll have too many problems either. Good luck to you---you deserve it!!
  4. by   caliotter3
    I am not in your situation but I can say that I have encountered overt disdain and discrimination when talking about the negatives in my life. I ended up in my car when I got laid off, lost my home, and had to leave school. At one job interview I was thrown out of the office when I disclosed this information. How do you think this person would have reacted if I had been disclosing more than having lost a job and the consequences? While I am all for honesty, I believe you need to be realistic about the time and the place. Do not shoot yourself in the foot or place yourself in a position for someone "holier than thou", to have an unfair advantage over your future.
  5. by   afbc
    Oh gawd.

    My unofficial interview with the head of admissions for the two year RN program was interesting to say the least. I became nervous and volunteered quite a bit of information about my past, my recovery and why I wish to become a nurse. I think I actually covered every topic I wanted to avoid.

    Looking back over the conversation, I needed a friend present, with one of those electronic dog collars, periodically shocking me when I started talking too much (a cattle prod would have worked just as well).

    On a positive note, I am enrolled now for the prereqs, with a class schedule, and a student ID (my last student ID had a mullet, where did all my hair go?). I can only hope that by the time I finish the prereqs, the interview will be completely forgotten.

    The deadline for the one year LPN program packet submission is next week, hopefully the follow up interview will be smoother. Still weighing the pros and cons of both programs. Both have great reputations here in the local healthcare community, and I would be extremely fortunate to be admitted to either program. Both are extremely appealing to me.

    I'm just grateful that I have this opportunity.

    Thanks for the advice,

  6. by   jackstem
    Isn't it sad how a nurse who has overcome the disease of chemical dependency is looked down upon with such disdain, while a nurse who has overcome other chronic, progressive diseases is held up as a "shining example" for all to admire?

    This sad state of affairs is a result of ignorance regarding the disease of addiction. When we lack understanding about almost anything, we base our decisions and actions on what I call "the 3 Ms of Addiction", Myth, Misbelief, and Misinformation.

    Congratulations on your 15 years of recovery! You have much to be proud of, regardless of the outcome with these 2 programs! Answer all questions truthfully, but do your best to answer only the question asked (man is THAT difficult!). I consult with a license defense attorney and it's amazing how frequently our clients provide all sorts of information that has nothing to do with the question asked. Each time you have an interview, do your best to remember as many questions asked and then practice answering ONLY that question. Remember, providing all sorts of information to "set up" your answer (meaning to justify why you did something) isn't required. If the person needs additional information after answering the original question in a concise fashion, they'll ask additional questions. I think we all have "verbal diarrhea" when it comes to this're not alone. Practice interviewing with a friend in recovery who has gone through similar interviews (job or school). Then have them help you narrow your answers down to the pertinent facts. As Sgt. Joe Friday used to say on "Dragnet", "Just the facts, ma'am (or sir), just the facts."

    Last edit by jackstem on Jun 18, '11 : Reason: punctuation
  7. by   catmom1
    Quote from afbc
    While I consider my struggles with alcoholism and mental illness as one of the greatest assets I could possibly have as a nurse in the addiction/chemical dependency field, I understand others, not in recovery, may not view my experiences in the same light.
    I could not agree more! I think of my own successful (and painful) recovery process as a precious asset. I have not (yet) found an employer who sees it that way. Believe me, people who have never had an active addiction will never understand the insanity involved.

    The way I see it, no matter what any employer or school admissions dean or whoever thinks of us, we are unbelievably blessed to have come back from the "dark side." As you know, the odds are not good to begin with.

    Ignorance is everywhere, it seems sometimes.

    Good luck afbc! Let us know how it goes.

  8. by   Starting Over...
    15 years is a long time. Congratulations!!!!!!
    In the rooms you are taught to rely on your higher power and to trust the program.
    You have 15 years and you know that the things you currently have accomplished were probably not possible 15 years ago. Look at how far you have gone. If your higher power hasn't left you in the past, why would he not allow you to accomplish positive goals today?
    I believe and I know from first hand issues, the only way your past comes back to haunt you is if you spent your present running away from your past.
    It sounds like you dealt with your past-If you had not, I doubt you would have 15 years sobriety.
    Do what was suggested and stick with the facts when asked what happened.
    When you have answered their questions, you may conclude by saying you no longer do those things today and you can outline the positive changes you have made to ensure that you do not repeat those things.

    Best of luck to you and I hope that the next post we hear will be of how you completed the nursing program and have your license!
  9. by   SilentfadesRPA
    As scary as facing new situations you are not alone - very proud of you and seeing the miracle of recovery and the promises of sobriety occur before our very eyes - doing things that no man thought would be possible - even with the mullet gone LOL

    Please keep us informed what happens.

  10. by   afbc
    I have been invited to interview with the LPN admissions board when they meet in mid July.

    Recently, several of our local nurses in recovery (who are ALL huge cheerleaders of mine, :heartbeat<3 you all!!! :heartbeat) have been relating experiences from their interviews with their nursing boards and offering support. With their help I feel confident in my ability to present myself to the board without coming across as a complete babbling idiot.

    Still not completely comfortable with all the expected questions though. When asked "Why I wanted to be a nurse?", my answer of "Marrying a cute doctor while getting to wear comfy scrubs all day!" apparently wasn't an acceptable answer.

    (The best part was the look on her face during the 45 seconds it took for her to realize I was kidding. lol)

    More to come after my interview!

  11. by   foraneman
    Your situation is a bit unique. You have many years of recovery, a long history of service to other addicts, and a burning desire to become a nurse that is based on these experiences. Your verbal diarrhea has likely guaranteed you acceptance into nursing school. Had you been somewhat evasive as is your legal right (as i shall discuss in a second) it is likely your chances would have not been as good. Your open book approach is seldom the best approach however.

    First some legal basics. Under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1974 no post-secondary education program (colleges, universities, trade schools) which receive federal funds (most all of them do) may ask an applicant ANY questions regarding their medical history or disabilities, nor may they base their decision on admission on medical history or disability. Addiction is considered medical history, as is any treatment for addiction, or the fact that you are in recovery. You can be asked if you use drugs currently. You an be asked if you have aver had a DUI or have been convicted of a felony or other crimes. NEVER lie about your criminal WILL be found out and thrown our of school or denied a nursing license. Not that depending on the state conviction of a felony may prevent you from getting a nursing license and/or admission to a nursing program, often predicated on the type of felony and the length of time since conviction. remember that charged with and convicted of are two different things...charged and not convicted? the shut your pie hole about it.

    DUI convictions can obviously be a dead giveaway to a substance problem. If recent they can also trigger action by a board of nursing once you are ready to apply for a license. And if you got one recently don't expect to be at the top of the list for admission to nursing school. The hard truth is however, that if you tell the school you are in recovery or have a history of addiction, your chances of being admitted to the program start to approach zero in most cases....this despite the fact that they are prohibited from considering this by law. Use of 'medical issue' to explain previous gaps in school or employment due to addiction treatment suffice. But when you have a DUI and telltale gaps and events in your history it does not take much to put 2 and 2 together many times.
  12. by   afbc
    Quote from afbc
    I have been invited to interview with the LPN admissions board when they meet in mid July.
    My interview was this afternoon and I feel I did well. I am satisfied that throughout this whole process, regardless of the outcome, I did my best.

    As far as this interview, the only question I felt I crashed and burned on was the standard "Tell us your greatest weakness". My mind reached critical mass and went into vapor lock. I replied something to the extent of "I cry during the grieving process and I am afraid I will cry in front of a patient's family." :headdesk

    Not my best moment, but certainly not my worse.

    I was surprised on how incredibly short the interview process was once I was called in to see the admissions board, six questions, start to finish maybe eight minutes tops. Then again time would be a factor if you are interviewing eighty people for thirty student positions.

    More to come once I am notified one way or the other,

  13. by   afbc
    Not selected, may try again in January.
  14. by   lilredrn
    Quote from afbc
    Not selected, may try again in January.
    Keep your head up!!! You WILL make a great nurse. I got a rejection during my first selection, but still got in for the first round. Students do apply to several schools, so there is always some shuffling closer to the program start date where they have to fill the gaps of the students who chose to attend a different school .