Getting into nursing school with a mental illness? Is it going to be possible?

  1. 1
    Hi There!. I registered for this board a while ago but haven't really posted quite yet. I am now at the point where I have a very important question and nursing school is a very big reality now. Here's my question

    Ever since I was little, I have wanted a career in nursing. I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 4 and that is where it stems from. My long term goal is to eventually become an RN but for now and what I feel is best for me is to start out a little slower, so I applied at a school near where I live to become a CNA. My focus is to become a CNA, then become an LPN and then finally go for my RN. I couldn't be more excited because on Halloween, I received a letter in the mail letting me know I passed my TABE test and that I meet the necessary scores to get into the CNA program!. I just couldn't stop smiling all night!. I had to gather some more information, get a physical, get references, etc.... so going furthur right away wasn't an option because I had to wait for all those things, but yesterday I finally had my phsyical and that was the last thing I needed before I could go back in and officially apply to get into the classes. I'm just waiting for my TB test to be read tomorrow and my blood work to come back to check my immunity to chicken pox (which I had when I was 5 so that should come back fine) and then I will be able to go in and get my appointment for my "nursing school interview" (which is one thing they require on their part I guess). Although when I had my physical yesterday, something I didn't think of came up and now it has me a little worried and that is where my question comes in.

    I am currently under the care of a psychiatrist. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and OCD and am on two medications. One of the medications is actually an anti-psychotic but it is the only medication that gives me such good results. My doctor has calmed my fears so many times because she will say that I'm not or am I even close to being psychotic, it's just the medication that works for me. I am also on an anti-depressant which works pretty good for me as well. My fear is that when I go in for my nursing interview, they will see this information and not accept me due to my mental illnesses. My primary doctor who I saw yesterday put my mind to ease saying that that should in no way be or cause any problem.....but I'm still so worried. I was so excited and so ready for this and now I'm worried that these things will be the reason I can't become a nurse.

    If you can share you opinions or anything in regards to this post, it would be greatly appreciated!. Thank you so much!.
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
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  3. 27 Comments so far...

  4. 3
    Yes, you can go to nursing school and be a nurse with mental illness. I don't know what state you are in, some states have a question on application that asks about it. I answered honestly (I live in VA; I have BPD and alcohol abuse) and got put in a monitoring program. But, I am still a nurse. Please feel free to peruse this forum and recovery forum. There's many posts about mental illness and being a nurse.

    We (us nurses with mental illness on AN) are trying to bring awareness and acceptance of mental health issues. Feel free to join us. We need to band together.

    Good luck!
    bella_, Esme12, and VivaLasViejas like this.
  5. 0
    I don't understand, Intm, did you have to disclose all your personal information? I know the BIG thing nursing schools want to know is if you had, or have a criminal background. I don't think you being depressed and having ocd will prevent you from getting into nursing school. My big question is can you handle being a nurse when there is so much stress and anxiety that goes with being a nurse? Have you thought about that? I personally know a lot of nurses who were never depressed and after being on the job for many years ended up taking antidepressants and a lot of us are susceptible to burn-out.
  6. 1
    wish_me_luck thank you so much for your reply!. That makes me feel a lot better!. I think I will stay here for a long time!. It's good to know that there's a place I can go to that has such understanding people that are going through exactly what I'm going through (and I live in NY )

    nurse4sale thank you so much for your reply!. I'm not exactly sure what I will have to do or say at the interview or how much "personal information" I will need to provide them with. I def don't have or had a criminal background so that is a very good thing. I have heard that nursing can be a very stressful job but I really feel that I can do this. It's been my dream since I was a child. It's just that I have so many bad memories of my cancer treatment and a really rough childhood with my mom that my psychiatrist feels that I'm not properly dealing with them and that's causing me to have my OCD and anxiety. The one thing I'm not though is depressed. I couldn't be happier with how my life is going right now. I have a great boyfriend, 4 great kids (2 of mine and 2 are my boyfriends), a great home, an EXCELLENT job who is supporting me throughout this whole nursing dream....I just get scared is the best way to put it. My OCD is not the typical OCD (handwashing, counting, etc....). With my specific type of OCD, I deal with intrusive thoughts. The best way to put it (although you probably know what intrusive thoughts are lol) are they are very bad thoughts that you can't control.....and then the anxiety starts because I'm scared that I'm either going insane or scared that I'm going to act on them even though I know I never would. And of course with OCD, once you have one bad thought, they just keep coming. Am I going to act on them, am I going insane, what if I want to act on them and don't know it, etc..... it's just a horrible thing to have. But thankfully that is the reason I am on the anti-psychotic medication. Even though I'm not psychotic, it's the only medication that makes it to where I don't have thoughts, and since being on my medication, I haven't had thoughts in years. So my OCD and anxiety is def under control, I'm just worried that even just being on these medications or having these mental illnesses will cause me not to get into school....
    Esme12 likes this.
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    Hello, and Welcome to Allnurses!

    Believe me, you'll find a lot of company here among the nurses and student nurses with psychiatric disorders. There are also several of us who are very open about our diagnoses, because we want to educate and inform others within our profession that you CAN be successful, even with mental illness.

    I'm sorry about the intrusive thoughts. They're part of bipolar disorder, too (which is my own dx) and I know how disturbing they can be. Don't worry about taking an antipsychotic though---the name of the drug is scary, but most of us who take them are NOT psychotic!

    You can do this. As long as your illnesses are well-managed---and it sounds like you're pretty close to it---you can do anything you want. Keep the faith!
    Esme12 likes this.
  8. 4
    Shoot, if people with psychiatric diagnoses couldn't get licensed and practice, there really would be a nursing shortage! The important thing is that your symptoms are controlled sufficiently to allow you to practice safely.

    Best wishes for your journey!
    KelRN215, morte, funfunfun550, and 1 other like this.
  9. 0
    I've dealt with GAD for years. Sometimes I take my meds, a lot of times I don't. I think it's been about four years since I was on Lexapro. I got through nursing school just fine. No one knew about my GAD except a few friends, I never disclosed it to any instructors.
  10. 0
    Hi lntm2925! I don't think anyone or anything should hinder you in achieving your dream...even your condition!Good to know that you are dealing well with your illness!Don't let the negative get ahead of you,test the waters first and be open to all possibilities!Good luck to your nursing career!
  11. 0
    Quote from lntm2925
    wish_me_luck thank you so much for your reply!. That makes me feel a lot better!. I think I will stay here for a long time!. It's good to know that there's a place I can go to that has such understanding people that are going through exactly what I'm going through (and I live in NY )

    nurse4sale thank you so much for your reply!. I'm not exactly sure what I will have to do or say at the interview or how much "personal information" I will need to provide them with. I def don't have or had a criminal background so that is a very good thing. I have heard that nursing can be a very stressful job but I really feel that I can do this. It's been my dream since I was a child. It's just that I have so many bad memories of my cancer treatment and a really rough childhood with my mom that my psychiatrist feels that I'm not properly dealing with them and that's causing me to have my OCD and anxiety. The one thing I'm not though is depressed. I couldn't be happier with how my life is going right now. I have a great boyfriend, 4 great kids (2 of mine and 2 are my boyfriends), a great home, an EXCELLENT job who is supporting me throughout this whole nursing dream....I just get scared is the best way to put it. My OCD is not the typical OCD (handwashing, counting, etc....). With my specific type of OCD, I deal with intrusive thoughts. The best way to put it (although you probably know what intrusive thoughts are lol) are they are very bad thoughts that you can't control.....and then the anxiety starts because I'm scared that I'm either going insane or scared that I'm going to act on them even though I know I never would. And of course with OCD, once you have one bad thought, they just keep coming. Am I going to act on them, am I going insane, what if I want to act on them and don't know it, etc..... it's just a horrible thing to have. But thankfully that is the reason I am on the anti-psychotic medication. Even though I'm not psychotic, it's the only medication that makes it to where I don't have thoughts, and since being on my medication, I haven't had thoughts in years. So my OCD and anxiety is def under control, I'm just worried that even just being on these medications or having these mental illnesses will cause me not to get into school....
    You are in almost the same situation as my girlfriend. She has anxiety and OCD that manifests through obtrusive thoughts. She just graduated from college and did very well. She didn't study nursing, but she was able to succeed in the college environment even though she struggled through high school. It took a bit of trial and error on her physician's part to get a good cocktail of medicines, but now she's doing pretty well for the most part. She does have clonazepam for severe bouts of anxiety and 'bad thoughts' (she actually calls them that, too).

    Just remember...if you are upset by these thoughts, it probably means that they are not 'yours'. I have to tell my girlfriend that sometimes. She likens the OCD to having a gremlin inside your head that tries to feed you false thoughts, so my reasoning is that if they cause distress, they are not your own thoughts but 'bad thoughts'.

    I don't remember having to disclose that much health information to my school when I enrolled. They seemed to be concerned mostly with your vaccinations. You'll do fine.
  12. 1
    And I thought I was the only one who had bad thoughts.....Thank you for your honesty..makes me feel human....signed another nurse with Bipolar disorder on antidepressant (1) and (1) antipsychotic...Thanks for making me feel normal....And thanks to all those other supportive nurses who signed in after you...You make me feel like I can really do this....Thanks again...
    VivaLasViejas likes this.


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