Returning Military Vet with PTSD...can I become a nurse?

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    I have served 10 years in the US Navy SEAL Teams and was assigned a disability rating upon exiting the military because of PTSD. I have always wanted to work "bedside" in a hospital and help people get there lives back together. I love to serve people and I can not think of a better place to perform that action. I have been the "one" in the bed and now that I am out of the military I want to pursue a career in nursing. I was wondering if anyone could tell me if having PTSD would keep me from being able to serve as a nurse or if it might make my PTSD worse? Are there any Vets out there who are like me but managed to find a way to serve as a nurse without having your disability get in the way of that service or worsen because of the nursing career choice? If anyone can give me any advise I would greatly appreciate it.Thank you in advance for your help.
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  3. 8 Comments so far...

  4. 2
    My husband has issues with PTSD and, while he is not a health care professional, he is a chaplain. When he first got home from Iraq, he wasn't sure if he would ever be able emotionally and spiritually to return to pastoral ministry. After several months of time away from the pulpit, he took a position as an interim minister and is now serving two rural churches, although he does have a disability rating.

    The biggest challenges that you might face are flashbacks should you deal with trauma patients. My husband has had flashbacks to times when soldiers died and, although they are very infrequent now, his memories are still triggered when we watch certain medical shows. He once had a flashback while watching M*A*S*H.

    You sound like a very caring, compassionate person who has a lot to offer the nursing profession. It can take a while to get into a nursing program because of prerequisites and wait lists, so you might want to take a CNA course, which is usually affordable and of short duration, so that you can work as a CNA to see if you do enjoy the work and learn if there are particular stimuli that trigger your PTSD. If you discover that the stress level is more than you wish to take on or that it causes flashbacks and such, then you have an answer and can look into other ways to help people, maybe other health care career opportunities. But if you are okay with the stress and don't have many triggering events, you may find you're in exactly the right place!

    I would strongly suggest speaking with your local VA representative about the new GI bill, which I believe is more generous in its educational benefits, and about support groups, if you feel the need for one, for your PTSD. My husband found a lot of support from his colleagues as several of his chaplain buddies were deployed at about the same time. Many of them had similar experiences when they returned home, particularly wondering if they, too, could be effective in civilian life while dealing with PTSD.

    BTW, a word of warning though: you may wish to keep the PTSD to yourself while you're in a nursing program or at work. I wish nurses were more understanding of each other, but there's still a stigma associated with needing help and some nurses seem to lack compassion when it comes to their peers. There's unfortunately this notion of nurses with problems being somehow "damaged goods" and people who are on antidepressants or have received treatment may face discrimination or at least bear the brunt of staff gossip. It isn't right but it is reality.

    I think you can do this! If I can be of any help, please LMK. You will also find excellent support people all around AN, many people who are very willing to help. I wish you the best!!!
    pooh54 and HM2VikingRN like this.
  5. 1
    Make sure that you take advantage of the PTSR program through your local VA.

    Thank you for your service!
    Moogie likes this.
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    Thanks for your posts...I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I was my privilege to serve. I hope to continue that service just in a different arena. Thanks again.
    deepthought and HM2VikingRN like this.
  7. 4
    Brother,
    By inference of your type of service, in respect to attachment to the world’s finest special operations group I will remind you "The only easy day was yesterday." I can only assume you have faced challenges that other people believe are impossible. You have pushed beyond self doubt to serve others at levels unrecognizable to ninety-nine percent of the world’s population.
    With that you must recognize the answer is yes, you can be a nurse!
    A rating at the VA opens a huge amount of advantages. I know that the percentage assignment for PTSD is normally giving 30%. This qualifies you to participate in Voc rehab (chapt 31).
    Without going into details it’s in your best interest to investigate. I would be happy to assist in any removable navigational obstacles should they present.



    "War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."


    - John Stuart Mill
    Moogie, athena55, pooh54, and 1 other like this.
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    Just a thank you for your service!!! As a vietnam era vet myself I would as the previous poster stated take advantage of not only you GI Bill but the Voc Rehab that is offered for SCD. Mine is only at 20% but I was still offered the Voc Rehab Counseling and it may be well worth your while to take advantage of it. Also here is another site that is really informative in relation to claims, education etc with Vets helping Vets. You may find alot of information http://www.allmilitary.com/board/viewforum.php?id=101
    pooh54 likes this.
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    codyerin, lets just say you’re not unique by means of your situation. i spent seven months in bethesda nnmc, learning how to walk again. i have a 60% rating and i am going to use voc rehab to get my accelerated bsn and matriculate into a dnp program.

    you keep your eye on the target; you know you will hit it. just get your intel gathered make a plan, stick to the plan. aim for the most valuable target. you know the drill…
    if you’re serious about nursing your target is a terminal degree.
    pooh54 likes this.
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    BTW, a word of warning though: you may wish to keep the PTSD to yourself while you're in a nursing program or at work. I wish nurses were more understanding of each other, but there's still a stigma associated with needing help and some nurses seem to lack compassion when it comes to their peers. There's unfortunately this notion of nurses with problems being somehow "damaged goods" and people who are on antidepressants or have received treatment may face discrimination or at least bear the brunt of staff gossip. It isn't right but it is reality.
    Kudos to this poster!! Unfortunately, what she says is true. There are so many areas in nursing that may not "trigger" you. Please continue on with your search, you sound like the type of person we need in nursing today! If you have problems in getting assistance with the PTSD thru the VA, there are civilian counselors that are certified in trauma counseling and can be very helpful!
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    http://nye.house.gov/index.cfm?secti...ee=&itemid=183

    House Passes Bill to Prevent Reprisals against Veterans Seeking Treatment for Injuries

    06/09/09
    Washington, DC – The House of Representatives passed a bill this afternoon that will “prohibit discrimination and acts of reprisal” by employers against wounded veterans seeking treatment for their injuries.
    This bill will protect the men and women who have protected our nation. Injured veterans undergoing treatment and making the transition back into civilian life should have all the support we can give them,” said Congressman Glenn Nye, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. “If you’ve been wounded serving our country, you shouldn’t be punished for your service when you go to work. Most employers in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore go above and beyond to support our veterans, but this law will help ensure that no veterans fall through the cracks.”
    The Wounded Veteran Job Security Act (H.R. 466), passed the House on Monday afternoon by a unanimous voice vote. The legislation ensures that veterans who miss work in order to receive medical treatment for a service-connected injury or disability cannot be fired or demoted as a result. Eligible veterans would not be required to use sick days or vacation leave in order to receive treatment.
    Nye also noted that the bill contains several provisions to protect small businesses. If an employer’s circumstances have changed, or keeping an employee on payroll would cause undue hardship, employers would not be required to retain the employee.


    This is a new bill that was passed in June 2009 only 6 days before I ended up leaving a position because they wouldnt accomadate my VA appts for medical treatment for a service connected disability. Most vets are unaware of this new bill as well as employers. Keep this in mind also no matter what job or decision you make. It's about time we were recognized in relation to our medical/treatment needs. My employer always made me reschedule appts for my regular days off which actually were far and few inbetween. VA appts are not generally as selective as in the civilian sector and notification is sometimes less than 2 weeks. I had left the job as they were requiring me to work OT (I was salary as the DON) due to short staffing for me to cover the floor 6 days per week therefore not being able to attend appts. Believe me the $243.00/mo for VA disabilty doesnt cover alot of bills lol. So I went from $65,000/year to just my disability and unemployment of $275.00/week. I am upfront with potential employers and they generally have no issue with it until it comes time to utilize the time needed. If this bill was passed only days before it may have saved my job. I dont think you need to tell them what the diagnosis is but letting employers know you are a veteran with a service connected medical issue that may require appts is all that needs to be disclosed. Especially in todays times as so many of our young men and women are coming back with many issues that hasnt been recognized in past times and should be accomadated to ensure those needs are met.
    Moogie and deepthought like this.


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