Can I be a nurse with a mental illness?

  1. I plan on getting a BSN. When researching the profession I noticed that mental health issues always came up as a potential problem. I have bipolar disorder. I'm not on medication for it now, because I can't afford it, but I plan to start taking it so I can live my life as productive as possible. I really want to be a RN and eventually get a MSN to become a nurse anesthetist. Will my mental illness threaten my plans? I don't want to spend thousands of dollars on a degree I wouldn't be able to use because of my health. Please help. Also I live in Texas if that matters.
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  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   Purple_roses
    There are so many nurses out there with mental health disorders. But we don't know you. We don't know your history or the severity of your illness, so we can't be good judges of what would be safe or healthy for you to do at this point in time. One thing I would be worried about is the medication. You're not on it right now, so you're probably not sure which med works the best for you, what dose works the best, and how to deal with side effects of the medication. These are things you would want to have squared away before you took on a big responsibility like nursing school. You should also talk with your provider about this stuff as he or she knows your history.
  4. by   pixierose
    Mental illness can threaten anyone's plans.

    Purple_roses put it very well: we don't know you, the severity of your illness, or your history. But I absolutely suggest squaring away an effective treatment plan prior to starting nursing school, whether that involves a medication regime or not. The fact that you're asking suggests that a treatment plan is not in place.

    I have bipolar disorder, well treated with a combination of medication, therapy as needed, and self care. I don't think I could function well without these, regardless of being an RN. However, it's definitely high stress ... so I'm glad I have them in place.

    Much luck to you.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    I agree with the previous posters. I have bipolar 1 and know how hard it is to maintain stability, even with meds and therapy. You'll want to get on and stay on meds...there should be drug assistance programs in your area that help patients pay for them. You can also check out GoodRx.com, they have coupons for up to 75% off some drugs and they compare the major pharmacies so you can see their prices.

    It would be helpful if we knew more about you and your illness. How long have you been diagnosed? Have you ever been on meds before, and if so, how was your experience? Do you have a psychiatrist/mental health nurse practitioner? How about therapy?

    That said, you can definitely be a nurse with bipolar disorder. It will be easier if you're getting treatment, and yes, you will probably need to disclose it to your school, especially if you need accommodations, and certainly the Board of Nursing, which in your state may require you to be in a monitoring program for a few years to make sure you can practice safely. In the meantime, feel free to post anytime and Welcome to allnurses! Good luck in your future career.
  6. by   LovingLife123
    It shouldn't be a problem if it's treated and under control. Without proper treatment it's probably going to be a no.

    Nursing school itself is so stressful I couldn't see how you would do that without your condition controlled whether with meds or therapy. There are plenty of ways to get help with the cost of expensive medication. Your physician should be able to point you in the right direction.
  7. by   Edt997
    Just to give a little insight to my illness, I was diagnosed with it very young. I was on medication up until about a year ago because I couldn't afford them without Medicaid. I've been stable but I notice the symptoms. I'm looking into getting medication now. I've never been hospitalized and I don't have hardcore symptoms like seeing things. I mainly have mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and paranoia.
  8. by   oceanblue52
    Great advice here. It is certainly feasible! I would add that you should get established with a Psychiatrist and counselor if you do not have one in place already. Some BoN's will require testimony via a letter from your treatment team testifying that you are stable and medically cleared before granting you a nursing license. Admire your foresight in thinking about this issue before applying, the more plans in place the better.
  9. by   Workitinurfava
    Just keep in mind that being a nurse could possible exacerbate your symptoms. There is a lot of stress in the profession.
  10. by   ItsThatJenGirl
    Here in Texas, you have to disclose this information to the BON, along with a letter from your provider stating that you're capable of working as a nurse, mentally.

    So yeah, it can be done, but it's imperative that you establish care now and be compliant with your treatment. You need to have a solid history.

    Good luck.
  11. by   ProperlySeasoned
    Could you become an RN? Probably. Should you? Only you can answer that. The challenge is that even those without a previous history of mental illness can struggle with anxiety, depression, and paranoia due to nursing. Add to that the challenges of self care with realities like call or overnight shifts. Trying to manage symptoms in a nursing career may be more difficult than in another line of work.
  12. by   DextersDisciple
    I also have type 2 bipolar disorder, which occurred after experiencing a hypomanic episode while on an SSRI for anxiety in my teens. if I was not on medication I could not stop crying or get Any sleep let alone work. Definitely talk to
    your psychiatrist and possibly even the office
    social worker to find a way to afford your effective "cocktail" as I call it. It took me a lot of trial and error and extreme lows to find my right drugs and dosages, but when I found the right one I stuck with it and i function just fine!

    In NJ I have not had to disclose mental illness on an application but I do include it in my PMH during the physical. They just ask if I'm medicated/have a therapist and if Its well
    managed. That's all. Good luck!
  13. by   OrganizedChaos
    I live in Texas & I am bipolar as well. You just have to be 100% honest with the BON when you apply & every time you renew.

    I have told this story multiple times but it always seems fitting.

    I had a "friend" in my LVN program & we took a a pre req together. She is bipolar as well & she lied to the BON & tried to renew online (you can't renew online, you have to send in a paper application with documentation from your psychiatrist saying you're fit to practice) saying she wasn't bipolar any more (hallaluyah, it's a miracle, she's cured!). Well, long story short, they saw what she did & they penalized her. She was also going to school for her RN-BSN at the time so what they did to her LVN license, they did to her RN permit. She never took her NCLEX-RN, I don't know why (we had a falling out & don't talk).

    Never lie to the BON, any BON. They will find out.

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