I graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science. I have been working as a web programmer and database administrator for five years, in three different positions. After being with my latest employer for 2.5 years, I along with many others were laid off due to budget cuts caused by the economy. I am considering pursuing a career in nursing, but one potentially major obstacle (from what I have read in various posts here) is the fact that I take opioids daily for managing my chronic pain.
I was in a severe car accident four years ago, and have disc herniations in my lumbar spine in addition to a lumbosaccral radiculopathy on the right side. It causes severe pain in my lower back and down my right leg, all the way to the lower calf. I have been taking opioids daily for pain management, and am on a stable (my medication nor dosage has not been adjusted in many months) dose of MS Contin -- controlled-release morphine sulfate -- for around-the-clock pain control and Roxicodone -- immediate-release oxycodone hydrochloride -- for breakthrough pain. I am not impaired and can legally drive, and I have a letter from my pain management doctor stating that I have chronic intractable pain that requires the use of opioids, that I am tolerant to the medications I am prescribed, and that my alertness and reaction times are not negatively affected. I take my medications exactly as prescribed and I do not abuse them. I have experience in the medical field (which is described below) and I have a high amount of respect for opioid drugs -- their effectiveness as well as their addiction liability.
While in college, I joined the campus first-aid squad and obtained my EMT-B certification (120 hours of emergency care classroom instruction and 20 hours of clincal experience in the ER of a Level I trauma center) during my freshman year. I was elected a Seargent (third-in-command) my sophomore year, Lieutenant (second-in-command) my junior year, and Captain (chief officer) my senior year. Officers took part in drafting SOP's, disaster planning and management, and the like for the college campus of 8,000 students, faculty, and staff. I became a CPR instructor and a First Responder (40-hour class that sits 'between' basic first aid & CPR training and EMT training) instructor for new members of the squad. During and after college, I also worked part time as an EMT for a Level I trauma center in a medium-sized city and did general interfacility patient transportation, critical care transportation (the team consisted of an RN, a Paramedic, and an EMT-B), as well as responding to medical 911 calls in the city. So, I have quite a bit of experience in the medical field and know 'what it's like' to work in the field.
After obtaining my Computer Science degree, I began working full-time in an office-based environment. I continued to work part-time as an EMT for a while, but eventually quit that and joined the local first aid squad as a volunteer. Now that I am currently unemployed after being laid off as of no fault of my own, I am considering getting into nursing. I understand that RN's are in high demand, and will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. And please do not take this the wrong way, but I also understand that male
nurses are considered by some to be in even higher demand, for the borderline-sexist reason that men don't take maternity leave. Like I said, please do not take that statement the wrong way, it is simply an observation made while talking to friends and family who are nurses.
So, I have a few questions for you all:
1. What is the process for someone who has a bachelor's degree from a liberal arts college? Should I choose this path, I am looking to become an RN, not an LPN, because of the much higher potential for career advancement. I understand that their are 'bridge' programs for LPN's to become RN's, but I would like to avoid that step and directly become an RN.
2. Taking prescribed opioid medications seems to be a very controversial subject here. Some people seem to be blatantly ignorant of the fact that chronic pain patients who take opioids for long periods of time become tolerant to the side effects and are not impaired in any
way. The only side effect that I do experience is constipation, which is controlled by diet and occasionally Miralax as needed. I feel it is important to re-stress the fact that I am not
impaired by my prescribed medications and I have a letter from my doctor that states exactly that. Unfortunately, I will most likely need to take opioids for the rest of my life, so it is not something that will only be temporary. I am looking for advice and comments especially from nurses who are working in patient-care capacities who have chronic intractable pain which requires around-the-clock (not prn) opioids. But I of course welcome advice and comments from all.
Thanks in advance for your help. As I have stated, I am currently undecided on this potential career change and am in the 'research' phase. Any information, advice, or comments that pertains to switching careers to nursing or to me being a chronic pain patient is much appreciated.