Can someone with a mental illness really be an effective nurse?

  1. 0
    The mental illness would be paranoid schizophrenia. Is this highly unlikely? And would it be way too stressful of a career?

    Lastly, are there any other medical professions that you would suggest?
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  3. 9 Comments so far...

  4. 2
    A lot would depend on how well the disease is managed.

    Does the person have prescribed meds, and, if so, are they faithful about taking them? How manageable are the side effects of the meds?

    Do they have insight into their own behavior? Do they have a solid support system and trusted people who can tell them when they are starting to lose control? Do they listen when this happens? Do they have a backup plan for when things start to go downhill?

    What kind of symptoms does this person have? If/when they become delusional, what happens?

    Can they take the pressure of school, of a job?

    Just off the top of my head, I'd say such an intense career field is probably not the best choice, but a really dedicated person can be full of surprises. I just saw the movie about Bill Porter (called Door to Door), a man with cerebral palsy who had a hunched gait, poor coordination, and speech problems. Although he was initially considered unemployable, he went on to become the top door-to-door salesman for the Watkins company. He had incredible persistence and drive and wouldn't take no for an answer.

    His condition was stable, though. Paranoid schizophrenia may not be. The younger the person, the more labile their illness may be. Other stressors can exacerbate symptoms as well. On the flip side, many times as the person with this condition grows older, the symptoms lesson in frequency and severity, but all of this is a highly individual matter.

    I would encourage such a person to seek the counsel of the treating physician and their own support people. I would also suggest that they contact NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) or other resources and speak with smilar patients, especially those who have found a way to pursue demanding educational and career goals. These are the folks in the trenches. If anyone can offer meaningful advice, they'd be the ones.
    Last edit by rn/writer on Oct 27, '11
    VivaLasViejas and pooh54 like this.
  5. 3
    You might want to check out the book Welcome, Silence by Carol North, MD. It is her own story of getting through college and medical school with active schizophrenia (before being apparently "cured" by an experimental treatment (she volunteered for a research study). She has not had further symptoms, and is now a successful practicing psychiatrist.

    I think the answer to your question depends entirely on the particular individual's unique circumstances. For some people, it would not be possible; for some people, it would. Only you can decide, in consultation with your treating professionals and your family/support system (the people who know you and care about you), what path to take.

    For what it's worth, I've known plenty of nurses with various psychiatric illnesses who were practicing, and I'm sure I've worked with plenty of others who had illnesses and problems I didn't know about.

    Best wishes!
    Purple_Scrubs, pooh54, and Jules A like this.
  6. 0
    wow that is a hard question.
    Off the top of my head No I do not see a paranoid schizophrenic being a good nurse.
    However I am sure there are exceptions to every rule!

    I think that my "physco nurse" has a mental illness and it is impairing her duties to both the residents and to the other employees. I would love to see her move on to something more suitable for her!
    Does she preform the job...yes. However she is often doign and saying things that are inappropiate and she makes the work place no fun a lot of times!
  7. 1
    I had a nursing school instructor who exhibited signs of mental illness and it certainly didn't stop her from continuing in her job.
    RNROSER2011 likes this.
  8. 0
    Quote from CNA2day
    wow that is a hard question.
    Off the top of my head No I do not see a paranoid schizophrenic being a good nurse.
    However I am sure there are exceptions to every rule!
    Keep in mind that there is a wide spectrum of possibilities within the general category of "paranoid schizophrenia," from people who would not particularly stand out in a crowd as being ill to the people who, unfortunately, are floridly psychotic, fail to respond to any of the available treatments, and are institutionalized. It's like lots of illnesses; take diabetes -- one person can have diabetes, have v. little trouble controlling her/his sugar, and v. little interference with her/his daily life and activities. Another person who has diabetes is terribly brittle, in and out of DKA, in and out of the hospital, frequently at risk of losing extremities, etc. Just hearing that someone has "diabetes" doesn't really tell you much about her/his personal, individual situation.

    There are plenty of people with schizophrenia who are stable on their medication and treatment, holding down jobs, raising families, etc. It's just that most of us aren't aware of that because they don't usually go out of their way to inform others that they have a chronic mental illness ...
  9. 0
    Quote from elkpark
    Keep in mind that there is a wide spectrum of possibilities within the general category of "paranoid schizophrenia," from people who would not particularly stand out in a crowd as being ill to the people who, unfortunately, are floridly psychotic, fail to respond to any of the available treatments, and are institutionalized. It's like lots of illnesses; take diabetes -- one person can have diabetes, have v. little trouble controlling her/his sugar, and v. little interference with her/his daily life and activities. Another person who has diabetes is terribly brittle, in and out of DKA, in and out of the hospital, frequently at risk of losing extremities, etc. Just hearing that someone has "diabetes" doesn't really tell you much about her/his personal, individual situation.

    There are plenty of people with schizophrenia who are stable on their medication and treatment, holding down jobs, raising families, etc. It's just that most of us aren't aware of that because they don't usually go out of their way to inform others that they have a chronic mental illness ...
    Yes I do realize that. I also think that without knowing the person it would be hard to know if they were one of them.
    Off the top of my head I still say no but if there is a passion I am sure many could make it happen and be successful.
  10. 0
    It depends. Some are high functioning & able to attain PhDs. Some are not able.
  11. 0
    Quote from ONRADAR124
    It depends. Some are high functioning & able to attain PhDs. Some are not able.
    I don't know that I would equate attaining a PhD with social facility, that's a rarified social stratum in its own right. For someone with PS, and the means and intellect, a PhD might be an excellent fit.

    In reference to the "stock" ADN/BSN, and related job market, I would say that it will be extremely challenging, and highly dependant on stability of the condition and med compliance, as noted.
  12. 0
    Depends on the person, the compliance with medication etc. It's possible sure -


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