can you become a RN with a "bad back"

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    I've been seriously thinking about going back to school to become a RN. I have a BS in Health Arts and currently work in a healthcare profession (dental hygine). One of my reasons for wanting to leave dental hygiene besides the monotony and no opportunities for change/advancement is I had a spinal fusion Feb. 2003 (L5S1) and the constant leaning over patients is starting to take its toll. For the most part , other than when I am done working all day (just two days a week), my back feels pretty "normal". I want to leave dental hygiene mainly to save my back, but wonder if I go into nursing I 'll be doing just as much damage if not more...I love healthcare and helping patients, but figure who better to give my insight into the actual physical demands of nursing/nursing programs than a nurse. Please, any feedback is greatly appreciated and respected! I'd hate to have to think of a different career to go after, but I would rather do it now than spen a lot of time and $ ; and then have to quit...

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  2. 1
    Yes you can become a nurse with a bad back. Many nurses do. Many people are going to tell you there's lots of jobs like office work, peds, etc. you can do.

    I however, do not recommend it. Research shows back injuries are a major problem in nursing. There is no reason to further endanger yourself in my opinion.

    To go to nursing school, you do have to usually prove you're fit, and with your history that might be hard.
    want 2 be a nurse likes this.
  3. 1
    Quote from Tweety
    Yes you can become a nurse with a bad back. Many nurses do. Many people are going to tell you there's lots of jobs like office work, peds, etc. you can do.

    I however, do not recommend it. Research shows back injuries are a major problem in nursing. There is no reason to further endanger yourself in my opinion.

    To go to nursing school, you do have to usually prove you're fit, and with your history that might be hard.
    Tweety said what I was going to say.

    Although there are plenty of "sitting-type" nursing jobs out there that wouldn't stress your back, those jobs typically require significant clinical experience to get, and you have to get through nursing school first, which is very "physical" and strenuous.

    If you already have back problems, how much sense does it make to enter an occupation famous for back problems? If it were me, I wouldn't take the risk.
    want 2 be a nurse likes this.
  4. 1
    I am not a nurse, so I can't give you a real world perspective here; but I am a dental hygienist entering the nursing profession and probably for many of the same reasons as you. I haven't had any back/neck surgeries YET, but after 3 short years of full-time hygiene my back is being put through the ringer already and I know that I have to get out... I already work with a personal trainer 2 days a week to strengthen and elongate my accessory muscles, I visit a chiropractor and massage therapist monthly AND I've even had to go through periods of physician ordered physical therapy just to get comfortable enough to keep working...With all due respect to nurses and other professionals, I don't think anyone but a dental hygienist can understand just how painful our career is...

    I mean there is a reason why dental hygiene is in the top 2 careers for carpal tunnel surgery and in the top 5 careers for neck surgery; it freaking hurts your body everyday! And there is a reason why the average career span for a full-time dental hygienist is only 7 years....you just can't keep this up forever...

    So, anyways I know that nursing is famous for causing back injuries also, but I feel like for 1 thing; it will be a different type of back strain, I won't be leaning over patients in the same compromised position for 8 hours a day; even if I do end up injuring my back it will be in a different way so it won't be a re-injury; whereas if I continue with dental hygiene I will continue to re-injure my back and neck every day that I work.

    Also, hospitals have better protocols for dealing with workplace injuries, you know how it is in a small dental office; you wouldn't dare file a workman's comp claim for your hygiene related back pain for fear of losing your job and being blacklisted in the dental community...

    So, I don't think that my new career in nursing will be easy or injury free, but I think it wil be BETTER than what I'm currently dealing with.

    My friend who is an RN is encouraging me to get my nursing degree despite my back problems, she has seen what I go through and even though she complains about back aches & injuries related to her job, she agrees that nursing will probably be an improvement...it's a tough call but i think it might be worth a shot! (obviously, cuz I'm taking that leap!)
    want 2 be a nurse likes this.
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    You will hear lots of people say to avoid nursing if you have back problems, but it can definetely be done. I have scoliosis, complete with metal rods, screws and lumbar fusion and I really havent had a lot of trouble yet. I was a tech before I became a nurse which aggravated it a bit, but since I made the switch to nursing I havent had any issues.

    If you go with nursing make sure you have great shoes. Staying in shape is key, I know if I didnt work out and keep my back stong I would be having a lot more isues. Also choose a specialty that you may not have to do a lot of lifting with. I work in Peds so the lifting isnt as bad as it could be- although we do see Bariatric peds patients-so thats not a given. There is so much minimal lift equipment in hospitals now a days that you really shouldnt be lifting anyone anway.

    Just my 2 cents
    want 2 be a nurse likes this.
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    JHURN: "I have scoliosis, complete with metal rods, screws and lumbar fusion"

    Did you have any problem getting hired with your back? Did you state upfront that you had a back operation? I'm soon to graduate with the same problem and very anxious how this will affect me in the hiring process.
  7. 1
    I think I may have mentioned it in my interview. More from a "I can totally understand what a lot of my patients are going through" perspective, and not so much as an issue with lifting.

    I used to be in great shape, lifted weights, ran, and even had a job skiing at a ski resort - so physically, I knew I could do the job and I made sure the employer knew it too.

    As long as you meet the requirements to lift - it should be stated in the job requirement- you have no obligation to bring it up. It is probably "safer" not too, but it can be played off as a strength. I think my previous hospitalizations and their impact on my career choice impressed my interviewer.

    Good luck with your interview!
    *Skye* likes this.
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    All,

    Just wanted to add some information from a hiring perspective.

    Dealing with workplace injuries is an increasing problem for hospitals... most have mandatory practice requirements to prevent the most common injuries such as needle sticks and back injuries. Some organizations actually have "absolutely no manual lift" rules in effect so that clinicians who don't must always use mechanical lift devices can be terminated.

    Each type of job has a specific set of "functional and physical requirements" which are the minimal physical capabilities needed to safely perform the job. Normally in nursing, these include specifications like: "work on weekends", "stand for long periods of time" "lift _____ pounds", etc.

    At the very least, applicants are asked to review the functional and physical requirements and state whether you are able to fulfill them. If you aren't honest, it is considered falsification of information and can be grounds for termination if you are hired. In addition, many organizations are now requiring functional assessments such as lift testing as part of the hiring process. This is perfectly legal as long as it is a job requirement and everyone has to do the same thing.
  9. 0
    Quote from rbezemek
    All,

    Just wanted to add some information from a hiring perspective.

    Dealing with workplace injuries is an increasing problem for hospitals... most have mandatory practice requirements to prevent the most common injuries such as needle sticks and back injuries. Some organizations actually have "absolutely no manual lift" rules in effect so that clinicians who don't must always use mechanical lift devices can be terminated.

    Each type of job has a specific set of "functional and physical requirements" which are the minimal physical capabilities needed to safely perform the job. Normally in nursing, these include specifications like: "work on weekends", "stand for long periods of time" "lift _____ pounds", etc.

    At the very least, applicants are asked to review the functional and physical requirements and state whether you are able to fulfill them. If you aren't honest, it is considered falsification of information and can be grounds for termination if you are hired. In addition, many organizations are now requiring functional assessments such as lift testing as part of the hiring process. This is perfectly legal as long as it is a job requirement and everyone has to do the same thing.
    Thank you for your post. I have no problem passing the requirements. My only concern is that if I tell them that I had a back operation, they may automatically label me as unfit and not hire. I have been discriminated before based on my back. Poeple automatically "know" what you can or can not do.
  10. 0
    Do not mention any prior medical issues to any future employer. This is extremely stupid, as they will find a different reason to not hire you. Also they can only ask if you are able to do the job, and not about past medical issues. Just remember if there is a law to prevent something (forced disclosure) someone most likely abused it, and a need for the law occurred.

    So if you know that your prior injury will not interfere with your job, do not mention it. A word of caution though, do not say you can perform the job when you cannot, as that will be grounds for termination.

    I have a bad back, and have had it for the last two and a half years. I also have a very physical job, I missed a total of 3 days and was on restrictions for three weeks when it went out, and now routinely make heavy lifts (just at a much slower pace). However, I am 6'4" and built rather strong, so my bad back is still capable of things that most good backs cannot do.


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