Psychiatric History - Can I still become a nurse?

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    After much wrangling, and "figuring things out" I finally settled on a BSN program that I think is right for me.

    What is more discovering my grades were competitive, if not overly impressive for the program was a pleasant surprise.

    I apply in the fall, and I am hoping for a spring start. They have rolling admission, and starts in the spring another thing I like about ResU. I will be applying to multiple programs because of the competitiveness of nursing school, but I honestly have my heart set on ResU.
    I am so far away from being a nurse. Right now taking 4 classes, and working part time I am doing fairly well. 88.5 in micro, 89.5 in gen chem, 98 in A and P, and 80 in humanities. I hate the humanities really I do. More math, and science please.

    My question is this. Is it even possible for me to become a nurse, and gain licensure after two psychiatric hospitalizations. My psychiatrist thinks I am doing quite well, I have spoken to lawyers, and the BON rep in my state both said I should be able to gain licensure if I earn it.

    Still I worry about it. I want to be a nurse so badly, and every semester I get a little closer. I have never wanted anything so much, but I fear I will spend an enormous amount on my education only to be denied licensure because of rampant depression. My depression got so bad it lead to ideas of reference. It was untreated at the time, and I won't lie I was a wreck.
    After beginning treatment for a substantial amount of time it is like life has done a 180. I am capable of things I never thought myself capable of. I put particular pride in my A and P grade.

    I suppose I just want to know its possible if I earn it. I don't want to be denied the opportunity to self actualize, and that is everything I fear.I fear every day someday some way my education will be taken away from me. It haunts me to this day because it happened before. When I first fell ill with Crohn's disease..

    My RBC count was at 69% I could have soon slipped into a coma. I flunked out. I have a checkered past. One I am working hard to rectify. All signs point to I still have a shot, but really it's hard to believe sometimes.

    I love what I am doing, and just want the opportunity to continue. I love my classes, and I just want to not let my past define me as a person.I want to put the past in the past, and move forward with my life. I think I have done an adequate job so far. Yet everyday the fear of inadequacy creeps in. In part I am grateful for it, it drives me, but at the same time other days I feel like giving up.

    I just want to have an education, have a family, send kids to college, contribute in my own way, love life, do all the normal things in life.

    I am only able to attend college full time because of the support of my parents. I feel guilty, like I don't deserve to be there. Like I blew my shot, and I should get down on my knees, and go back to settling for less then what I want.

    It is hard to quantify. I am deeply grateful to be there, but at the same time I want it done so I don't have to lean upon others. If that make any sense.

    Thank you in advance for reading.





    Dear Feels Inadequate,

    Congrats on your progress so far, future RN.

    There are never any guarantees that the State Board will grant an RN license at time of application (which is after you’ve completed nursing school) when there are mental health issues and/or criminal records in your past. Acceptance into nursing school does not come with pre-approval to take state boards (NCLEX)- that is a separate process.

    For me to say “You’re a different person, your depression is controlled, there shouldn’t be a problem” would be irresponsible.

    It will depend on if the State Board of nursing determines that you are safe to provide patient care and that your mental illness is treated to their satisfaction. Having been hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital or behavioral unit does not in and of itself disqualify you.

    I would be prepared with letters to present to the board from your doctors speaking to your recovery and functionality. By that time, you will have completed nursing school, and your clinical instructors can also testify to your aptitude .

    Stay focused on today, and do not overwhelm yourself with unmanageable work/school loads. You need to learn to manage your worry (and anxiety if it is anxiety) about future events you have no control over. You need all your energy directed towards school, and if you allow the negativity to overtake you, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

    You also say you feel unworthy. If you have not had any counseling, I highly recommend it. You will learn to think more clearly. Some assumptions you hold that lead you to feel unworthy will be challenged. It’s more common that you think for people to feel “less than”. You are not alone. You will also learn some healthy coping mechanisms for your worrying tendencies.

    You are to be commended for your journey. The best nurses are healed helpers, as they say.

    My Very Best,

    Nurse Beth

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  2. 30 Comments

  3. by   DeeAngel
    If you are only able to go to school due to the support of your parents I seriously question how you will handle the intense stress of nursing school and working on the floor. Before committing to school I would see if you could speak with someone at the BON of the state where you intend to practice. Getting through school is one thing, taking the NCLEX and getting a license to practice is something completely different. Remember the BON exists to protect the public, not you.
  4. by   Kellorn
    Why are you opening a whole new can of worms by contacting the BON. I have a psychiatrist history as well, but I certainly didn't want to involve the BON into my life until I needed to. Personally, the less contract with the BON I have, the better off I am. Just do your job and keep quiet about it. Trust me. Others will not give you sympathy or give you special treatment due to your "psychology history". Just about all the nurses I know have psychiatric issues. Very few don't. I wouldn't go around wearing it like a badge of courage. Not trying to be mean, I've been a nurse for 13 years.
    Last edit by Kellorn on Apr 27, '16 : Reason: forgot a sentence
  5. by   nordicRN
    I completely agree with you! Do not put this out there for the BON, your instructors or classmates!
  6. by   LessValuableNinja
    If I were in your shoes, I would ask the BON rep if they have a process for what would loosely be referred to as "pre-approval." They do in Texas, and as far as I'm aware, most schools in Texas require you to go through it prior to full admission. I imagine some other states have some sort of process. If they do, hopefully yours is one of them. That way you know one way or another, and you don't have to wait for the process to occur after you graduate.
  7. by   Missingyou
    I just wanted to add:
    Your parents believe enough in you to offer support so that you can attend school full time. That's awesome. Lucky you!

    Take one day at a time. Deal with what is on your plate now, which is studying and doing the very best you can.
    Deal with the issue when it comes....IF it comes!

    What I don't understand is if both your psychiatrist AND the BON representative in your state gave you a green light, why are you torturing yourself wondering "what if" when you've already been told you have a chance!!! You will have to work for it just like everyone else. But, it looks like you've got that under control!
  8. by   MMRN215
    As someone whose been in a similar situation, definitely do not say anything to your school, the BON or anyone in your future workplace.

    I was hospitalized with depression/anxiety/eating disorders before going to nursing school and fortunately that experience gave me the strength and courage to pursue a career as a nurse. Just because you've been through a difficult time psychologically does not mean you are unstable. If anything, I felt that it made me a better person and compassionate towards my patients.

    However, a lot of people in the nursing world will take your past of "psychiatric history" as not being strong enough to work in a stressful environment. You would think that being a nurse, your fellow colleagues will understand, but unfortunately that's not always the case. It's nobody's business to judge your personal health struggles and not your obligation to tell anybody.

    Obviously there is always the chance for a flare-up. Nursing school is extremely stressful and I'm not going to lie I sometimes struggled. It is a good idea to file for an academic disability so that if that does ever happen, and you have to miss class or a test, they cannot fail you. You won't have to disclose to your professors what your disability is, it will go through the college's disability office.

    As for landing a job, you will need to have a health clearance with employee health but the only thing I had to do was give them a letter from my psychiatrist saying that I was stable to take care of patients. I am very good at my job and I don't think anyone would suspect that I ever had a problem with my mental health or that I still sometimes struggle. That is my personal business and not something I need to disclose at work.

    Lastly, I would advise going to therapy regularly, especially during nursing school. Nursing school is a busy time and it can get hard to stay in touch with yourself. Having that hour to de-stress every week will be more valuable than you know.

    Don't for one second doubt yourself! You never know another persons struggle and I'm sure you're not the only one. We're all human! Good luck !!
  9. by   MMRN215
    And PS, all the people who say "you aren't cut out to be a nurse if you can't handle stress" or "this is a hard career and it's not for you" obviously have never dealt with their own problems-- knowing you have a psych history you have probably already faced your demons and learned the tools to overcome them. People are ignorant to what they don't understand.
  10. by   TheMoonisMyLantern
    With some of the folks I've worked with over the years I've often wondered if a psychiatric history was a prerequisite for becoming a nurse!

    In all seriousness though as long as you continues to take care of yourself and manage your stress there's no reason why you can't at least make the attempt. We never know what we are capable of until we try.
  11. by   whatwasithinking75
    I don't speak for everyone but certainly quite a few of us have a hx of mental illness. If this isn't r/t criminal hx I would suggest NOT telling the BON about this!!!
  12. by   rcl071411
    I also have a hx of psych issues. I have never told anyone, not classmates, not the BON, not anyone at work. I have seen where if people know you have a mental health issue, they will try to get rid of you...don't tell anybody, besides it is none of their business.
  13. by   Maevish
    If you can do the responsible thing and make sure you keep your doctor appointments and make them very aware of your situation, you should be good to go. It's always a good idea to check in yourself, even if you're "fine", because mental health is a very tricky thing and nothing to mess with.

    Letters and things like that are good to have as well, should someone ever ask for them and it would be good validation for you as well.
    Also, you're going into a job to protect others and if you had a seizure disorder, you'd take great pains to keep it under control so you wouldn't put anyone else in danger, right? Same goes for this issue.
    I was very deep in depression in college (when I was at my busiest and "happiest") and no one knew. I was a cutter. I was in the nursing program and didn't want to be, at the time, so I hid it very well. It was exhausting though, and I finally had to do something about it.

    With mental things you will always have tendencies, but that doesn't mean they make or break you. If you surround yourself with a good support system and get the clinical help you need, things should go well for you.

    Good luck, friend!
    xo
  14. by   Neurotic Student
    Sad that we cannot disclose this but it's so rampant. I know my workplace has told me they have this help program thing where you can go talk to them about personal problems and they are supposed to give you resources or guidance. But according to everyone's advice here, nobody should go use that program haha. I have outpatient years ago in the past but I also wouldn't disclose it at work. I don't really disclose it to people in general anyways. They asked me in the employment forms I filled out, about disability/chronic illness and in parenthesis they put for example diabetes, bipolar, depression, etc. I'm not falling for that trap so I put no.


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