Nurses with bipolar disorder?

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    I am a nursing student and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago. I have had a really hard time coping with this disorder, but with maturity and experience, I have grown to accept it and am getting better. I had initially wanted to go to medical school, but like nursing for its flexibility and great benefits. I would really like to help other people who have psychiatric illnesses. I feel like I have learned a great deal through my experiences and would be a good psychiatric nurse.

    What do you think about someone with my diagnosis being a psychiatric nurse? I have definitely had my struggles but have also been determined to get and stay well. I have published several articles and a book I just wrote for students w/ psychiatric illnesses is at the printer right now. I really want to help others. I am so afraid that the nursing boards will deny me an RN license because I have a history of hospitalization for my illness. Do any of you have thoughts on this? I want to be the best nurse I can be for my patients and am hoping to eventually get an NP in psych.

    Thank you so much in advance for reading this.
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  4. 19 Comments so far...

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    I have been a nurse for 2 years. I work with developmental disabilites and mental retardation. I am currently working on my psych NP.

    I was diagnosed as Bipolar at 16. I have had 3 suicide attempts. I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been hospitalized. I use psych meds daily.

    I took and passed my boards without issue. I practice without issue. I was fired by one employer for having my disease because they thought I should not be allowed to pass meds because I was more likely to divert medications. I never have and I was able to find a better employer.

    You are strong and brave for living with this disorder and for being a success. Do not doubt yourself or question your ability.

    And my own therapist she is a recovering alcoholic and she makes the best therapist for me.
    bbedit likes this.
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    In my opinion, you should definitely follow your dreams and become a psychiatric nurse and a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I believe that nurses and anyone for that matter, who has any type of disease or has been through any type of problem is very fit to help others with that problem. The key here is empathy. A person who has experienced something will be very empathetic towards others who have experienced the same thing, because they know how it feels. I would definitely encourage you to pursue a career in psychiatric nursing if that is what you want. As an example, there are many rehabs that look to hire recovering alcoholics and addicts as nurses and other staff, because they are aware of how those having a disease can help others with the same disease.

    I don't think you have to worry about getting your nursing license-not with HIPPA laws. It is not against the law to have a disease. How would they even know that you are bipolar or have been hospitalized ? We have HIPPA laws and discrimination laws. I am not a legal expert, but I don't see that being a problem at all. Having an illness does not mean that you cannot become a professional and do a great job at it.

    Personally, I have my own issues having been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I am an RN with school nursing and teaching experience. I am applying to graduate school to get my master's in psychiatric nursing. I have given this a lot of thought, and because of my own psychiatric issues, I think i will make a GREAT psychiatric nurse. I understand a lot about mental illness, medications etc., and I am so interested in this that I know I will do very well in school. After I have learned everything I can, I will put that together with my extreme empathy for people with psychiatric disorders, and I know I will do a great job.

    Nursing is a science and an art. We need to learn everything we can and then use our skills together with our hearts to care for patients using our knowledge and our ability to be empatetic to their problems and needs. I have seen psychiatric nurses with loads of experience who are not very good at their jobs because they have no EMPATHY for their patients. You and I have that. We will do great. You go for it!!!! Krisssy
  7. 0
    Quote from lizzychica02
    I am a nursing student and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago. I have had a really hard time coping with this disorder, but with maturity and experience, I have grown to accept it and am getting better. I had initially wanted to go to medical school, but like nursing for its flexibility and great benefits. I would really like to help other people who have psychiatric illnesses. I feel like I have learned a great deal through my experiences and would be a good psychiatric nurse.

    What do you think about someone with my diagnosis being a psychiatric nurse? I have definitely had my struggles but have also been determined to get and stay well. I have published several articles and a book I just wrote for students w/ psychiatric illnesses is at the printer right now. I really want to help others. I am so afraid that the nursing boards will deny me an RN license because I have a history of hospitalization for my illness. Do any of you have thoughts on this? I want to be the best nurse I can be for my patients and am hoping to eventually get an NP in psych.

    Thank you so much in advance for reading this.
    I too, am looking to go into psych nursing, and I was diagnosed as bipolar about 10 years ago. I too, like krissy, am a recovering alcoholic. (Isn't self-medicating wonderful?)

    I get the point about the HIPPA laws, but in our state we have to self-disclose any kind of mental health history, which is making me very nervous for the day it comes. For now...I'm just staying focused on getting through school. Luckily, if the I do have to appeal any decision by the Board of Nursing, I have free legal counsel (husband's an atty) but I'm hoping it will never come to that.

    You will probably make the best kind of psych nurse.. I believe the people that have gone through something are always better at dealing with people under similar circumstances. Be glad that your bipolar is under control (as much as it ever is!) and that you are going to be capable of making a difference in someone else's life. Myself, I have no end of gratitude to the doctor who finally got me stabilised, and I can only imagine what it's like for the people with our disease who end up long-term inpatient and never break the cycle. They need someone like you!
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    Quote from momof3heathens
    I too, am looking to go into psych nursing, and I was diagnosed as bipolar about 10 years ago. I too, like krissy, am a recovering alcoholic. (Isn't self-medicating wonderful?)

    I get the point about the HIPPA laws, but in our state we have to self-disclose any kind of mental health history, which is making me very nervous for the day it comes. For now...I'm just staying focused on getting through school. Luckily, if the I do have to appeal any decision by the Board of Nursing, I have free legal counsel (husband's an atty) but I'm hoping it will never come to that.

    You will probably make the best kind of psych nurse.. I believe the people that have gone through something are always better at dealing with people under similar circumstances. Be glad that your bipolar is under control (as much as it ever is!) and that you are going to be capable of making a difference in someone else's life. Myself, I have no end of gratitude to the doctor who finally got me stabilised, and I can only imagine what it's like for the people with our disease who end up long-term inpatient and never break the cycle. They need someone like you!
    I think you mixed me up with someone else-I am recovering from PTSD not alcoholism. But I do agree with you that people who have gone through diseases and come out well, are very good at helping others who have the same disease. It has been proven to work in alcoholism, so why wouldn't it work with bipolar disoder, PTSD etc. I bet there are a lot of great psych nurses who have gone through psych problems, and sometimes we are not even aware of it.
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    You guys make me feel so much better! I'm a pre-nursing student (prereq's) and have been really stressing out about my ability to be a nurse at all with my psych history. I have borderline personality disorder and have struggled with depression for years but was recently dx'd as bipolar. I feel like I have so much to offer because of my own health issues but was afraid it would never happen. Good luck!
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    Don't worry Kayte! When I transferred my nursing license from MO to WI, I had to list bipolar (although now I know - and am diagnosed with - ADHD, not bipolar) It was just delayed briefly because they wanted a letter from my doctor. Then it went through without problems.

    Sounds like you are already doing the right things, like finding the right employer. And turning a negative into a positive by writing and wanting to help others.
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    Are you saying that to get your license you have to disclose all medical diagnoseses that you've had? I am wanting to do pyschiatric nursing as well, and have about 9 months to go before I take my boards for my RN. I am currently (in the beginning stages, yikes) of recovering from depression and bulimia. However, I have been able to get through school while suffering from both and have been working part time at the hospital as a PCA so I still feel I will be able to function as a nurse to my patients.

    This worries me though that you are required to disclose all information about yourself, I wasn't aware that there were rules regarding this. What state are you in if I may ask?
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    Quote from PinkAurora
    I am currently (in the beginning stages, yikes) of recovering from depression and bulimia.
    I'm also bulimic (and bipolar). I disclosed to my professors only during psych rotation, when they nearly placed me on an eating disorder unit for my clinicals. I can see where it would be nice to be able to tell any employer, so they know what to do if I panic, but there's still just so much stigma. So I'm practicing disclosure to peers, new friends, etc, to prepare myself for the wall I may hit when I try to get a job.
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    I'm in Idaho Pink...but it I believe that quite a number of states require psychiatric disclosures. Not your full med. records...psych only. And they specifically ask about any instances of depression here.

    What the chair of the nursing dept told me when I talked to him about it is that they might look a little closer at my psych history, and may ask for doctor's letters, etc...But, as he also pointed out to me...you have to be at least a little twisted to go into nursing anyway, so they can't deny too many people. He also hinted to me that it is SELF disclosure in our state. I don't think I could bring myself to ignore it on the inquiry though, cause what if mandatory disclosure became the rule, and then they found out that I hadn't disclosed it?

    I know this all makes me nervous, so I try not to think about it too much. Right now I'm trying to stay focused on getting through school, and then dealing with it later. Like I said in my previous post, if I have to fight the BON to get my license I will...I just hope it never comes to that.

    I was in yesterday gettinga n evaluation by a different doctor than my usual, and mentioned a few of my worries to him (like beiong able to get through school ok) and he told me that he hass seen many of his patients remain medicated in a hypomanic state and still make it through school well, so I am hopeful. He also is of the belief that nurses who have been there do more good, and that nursing may well be a good field for me to change to, as I can't manage sitting in an office all day anymore.

    Good luck!


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