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Can a Bipolar/physically disabled man be a nurse?

Elanthil Elanthil (New) New

I am 40 years old.

I have a measured I.Q. of roughly 140+, but very little 'common sense' :)

I have a fairly rare sort of crossbreed diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, major depression, and borderline personality disorder. I am also ADHD, have been since I was a child, and, was treated with the typical drugs used in the 70s and 80s, which my Doctors believe may have contributed to my current emotional disorders (I refuse to call myself mentally ill. I may be distracted, and have a low self image sometimes, but my mind is sharper, and smarter, than any other three people put together!).

I also have a neck that has been fused and had implants installed ('scaffolding'), spinal stenosis, mild leg neuropathy and slight drop foot.

For getting around long distances, I use a cane and do fine, although I am definately not a speed demon.

I am also a former heavyweight kick-boxer, and despite my structural abnormalities and the pain I have learned to accept as being my 'buddy' for the rest of my life (its constant and untreatable), I am strong enough to do...well...anything that needs done. I can, when called upon, take a 300 pound man over my shoulder and carry him...although I hope I would never have to :D

Now that you have some background facts, here is the deal:

I have always aspired to nursing, for two reasons: First of all, I cannot see myself devoting the time, money, and hardship to becoming a full on Doctor, furthermore I have learned over the years it is really the NURSES who make a difference in a patients care and recovery...the Doctor's are often little more than a diagnostic tool, in my opinion, and, because of the nature of their job tend to become emotionless automatons...and that is just not me!

I know as both a 'mentally ill' person, a 'disabled' person, and a heterosexual male, I have a steep uphill challenge not just to complete my training, but to secure a job, keep that job, and be taken seriously in the workplace, but I think Im stubborn and cantankerous enough to suceed....if I'm allowed.

And that, dear nurses, is my question: Am I, a crippled, half-crazy gimp of a middle aged man ALLOWED, by law, and by ethics, to become a nurse?

I feel that I would never be a danger to a patient, that I can provide high quality care within reasonable working accomodations, and I desperately want to take up what has, for so many years, felt like my 'calling'.

Any information, advice, or links to legal information regarding my circumstances and my chances of suceeding as a nurse would be most helpful.

-Anxiously yours, Elanthil.

DolceVita, BSN, RN

Specializes in IMCU. Has 9 years experience.

I have got to ask why you think being a heterosexual male adds to your uphill climb as a potential nurse?

If you have a personality disorder, are bipolar and currently suffering a major depression to you really think you have the emotional bandwidth to do this job? I could blow all sorts of smoke up your bottom about "anyone can do anything they set their minds to" but seriously...is this wise? Exactly how stable, emotionally, are you? Have you been able to be out working say in the last few years in another job?

I would be interested to know what the nurses already out working think about this.

I don't want to give you a hard time...I swear. But just because accommodations must be made doesn't mean this is the right thing.

I believe I misspoke and perhaps put too much emphasis on the sexual orientation thing, but it is a pet peeve of mine. I believe that people ASSUMING someone is gay based on their choice of profession is as unfair as, say, a gay person being ASSUMED to live a perverted lifestyle. Neither opinion bears any merit, but the mere fact that many people still hold....and act upon...these unenlightened opinions bothers me.

This stigma naturally is something I would have to take into consideration and be prepared for dealing with in a calm and caring manner. That's really all I meant, and to call it part of an uphill battle was perhaps disingenuous of me and possibly insulting to persons of alternate lifestyles, so you have my apologies on that side of things.

That aside, however, lets get to the real meat of why I posted:

As to my stability:. I am on a single medication these days, after years of the medication rollercoaster, and it provides the balance I need to function properly.

In fact I would venture to say that I face lifes uncertainties with more aplomb and grace than many of you so-called 'normals' do, thanks to my medication regimen and some changes in lifestyle, diet and what I permit myself to 'get away with' thinking about.

So: Short answer: Yes. I'm stable enough and 'normal' enough to give medical care to others.

As to working, I have NOT worked in almost six years, but this is due to the physical problems I was left with after my car accident, rather than my so-called 'mental disorder'.

At the time of this writing, I am looking forward to (anxiously) no less than 4 to 6 surgeries ranging from my skull to my spine that the doctors have assured me will return me to the kind of physical condition one would expect of the average middle aged man, although I will never be the kind of bruiser I was in my kick boxing days, of course.

What I really care about is the legality and the ethics of a Bipolar person being a nurse.

I cannot afford to waste tens of thousands of dollars on training only to be booted from classes after paying for them, or worse, refused a license or a job because some half-wit believes that anyone with emotional challenges is automatically some kind of threat, so I was hoping someone could provide some specific insight into the laws governing who may and who may NOT practice in the medical field.

I am so certain of my calling in this field that I would be willing to agree to almost any kind of stipulation, regardless of how dim-witted or unfair in order to pursue nursing.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not 'obsessive' about it. I'm just willing to go the extra mile (even two) if that's what it takes. If the law unfairly and unjustly says I cannot pursue my dream well then, I suppose there is nothing I can do about it and will just have to put it down to how unenlightened our 'civilization' still is about 'mental illness', and go off and pursue something else I am passionate about.

DolceVita, BSN, RN

Specializes in IMCU. Has 9 years experience.

Well my suggestions are:

1) Consult with your shrink and therapist if you have one -- what do they think?

2) Consult with you regular doctor or the one who knows your physical condition(s) best -- what does she/he think.

3) See if someone at your state's NAMI can advise you or point youin the right direction OR check out http://www.exceptionalnurse.com/ to start some research.

4) Check with your local colleges -- they probably won't want to discuss theoretical accommodations

If you think you can do it then great, but listen to your professionals also. My biggest concern is that you send yourself into physically and mentally demanding training, then proceed into a career that is even more physically and mentally demanding. Will you be doing YOURSELF a disservice? I guess, if after these surgeries, you will be in tip top physical shape you don't need to worry about anyone making physical accommodations for you.

There is no law that says those who have experienced mental illness cannot practice nursing.

I will say that if your bipolar disorder or personality disorder has ever caused you to do something regrettable, in terms of the law, you have a completely different problem.

Let us know how it turns out.

Mike A. Fungin RN

Specializes in Trauma ICU, Peds ICU.

I don't think being a heterosexual will be a barrier to you at all. You may be treated differently as a male during nursing school, but I doubt to the extent that it will hinder you completing your education. Also, for the most part that discrimination disappears when you enter the workplace.

As for the stereotype that all men in nursing are homosexual, and that being a concern for you, I'm not sure what to tell you. I'm straight, and it hasn't been an issue for me at all. But then, I have a pretty liberal viewpoint on the topic myself and I also live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area where people are more accepting. I've been to other areas of the country where this isn't the case.

My NP and the shrink have been pressuring me to do something like this for 2 years now, so I think I can count on their support :)

My main concern is how to juggle school, shrink appts and Dr. appts without harming my GPA, but I'm sure some accomodation can be made.

Thanks for the advice, I'm going to contact a few nursing colleges and possibly the legal aid society in my area to get the fine details, but it's nice to have the affirmation from nurses that someone 'like me' is acceptable :)

Mike A. Fungin RN

Specializes in Trauma ICU, Peds ICU.

One of my classmates in nursing school had borderline personality disorder. These things aren't unheard of. What's important is what is your baseline when you are compliant with treatment, and can you do the job with reasonable accommodations.

CrufflerJJ, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 5 years experience.

i am 40 years old.

i have a measured i.q. of roughly 140+, but very little 'common sense' :)

i have a fairly rare sort of crossbreed diagnosis of bipolar disorder, major depression, and borderline personality disorder.


and that, dear nurses, is my question: am i, a crippled, half-crazy gimp of a middle aged man allowed, by law, and by ethics, to become a nurse?

i'm not sure if you've looked at the nclex (nursing license exam) application for your state yet. if not, check out your state's board of nursing website to see if they have it online. in ohio, the ever-friendly & understanding (not) bon asks:

within the last five years, have you been diagnosed

with or have you been treated for bipolar disorder,

schizophrenia, paranoia, or any other psychotic disorder?


if you answered, "yes" ..., please provide

details on a separate sheet, including date(s) of diagnosis or

treatment, and a description of your present condition. include

the name, current mailing address, and telephone number of

each person who treated you, as well as each facility where

you received treatment, and the reason for treatment. have

each treating physician submit a letter detailing the dates of

treatment, diagnosis and prognosis.

if your state asks similar questions, expect to be run through the wringer even before you are allowed to take the nclex exam. your bon may force you into a consent agreement or monitored practice agreement (where your supervisor has to send in quarterly reports) for a year or so, even if you've been perfectly stable for years & years. the bon may also require that you see one of "their" psychiatrists in addition, even if you've had your own for a long while.

these restrictions may make it difficult for a new grad to get their first job.

on a different subject, you mention in your post that you have very little common sense. if you're serious about that & weren't kidding, that would cause me a bit of concern. i'm a newbie nurse, starting my first job in a few weeks. in my nearly 20 years of ems experience (emt & later paramedic), i've run medic with a number of folks who were "book smart but common sense dumb." these folks were scary to work around. by that, i mean that they always knew the "book" answer, but had trouble applying it to a field situation that didn't exactly fit "the book." in the meantime, their patient suffered while awaiting care.

there are times when you have to use your intuition as to what's happening with your patient, and have to go by "gut feel" as to how to best handle the situation (not use a cookie cutter approach to patient care). i think (just my opinion) that "common sense" plays a big role in the ability to handle things of this nature. if you are strongly drawn to nursing, there are bound to be some areas of nursing in which the "common sense thing" wouldn't be such a hassle, so don't let that keep you away.

DolceVita, BSN, RN

Specializes in IMCU. Has 9 years experience.

My main concern is how to juggle school, shrink appts and Dr. appts without harming my GPA, but I'm sure some accomodation can be made.

I don't know if schools can accommodate being unable to attend classes or complete assignments due to doctor appointments and the like. I think that is a bit of a stretch. Also, generally, you cannot make up clinical experience time. So you are probably going to have to organize your schedule carefully.

Dear Elanthil,

I am a FNP, and currently in school for my DrNP. Over the years I have worked with many male nurses. One of my classmates in the DrNP program is male. He is currently a stay at home Dad because he has a disability ( he was an OR nurse, but his wrist kept breaking for unknown reasons), so he decided to pursue his doctorate to prepare for a job outside the OR.

Where there is a will there is a way. There are many jobs in nursing that do not require physical labor. Many nurses find jobs in education, research, administration, or management, and of course, psychiatry.

If you choose a school for nursing, choose one that will assist you with your disabilities. There is grant money available for nursing education and for people with disabilities. All you need to do is search for it, or talk to an advisor. There are nurses who complete their education in wheelchairs.

If you are bipolar that is not a reason not to work or go to school. But you need to have enough insight ( it appears you do) to know that you need to be adherent on your medications to be stable. You need to have a good relationship with a psychiatrist who can vouch for your stability, adherence to medications, lack of suicide attempts or hospitalizations, and who can state that you are stable enough to attend nursing school. I think if you can such a letter, you will be alright.

If you are not stable enough on medications - this may not be the right time for you to take on the stress of nursing school. It will be stressful.

Just FYI - I was recently diagnosed as bipolar II at age 56, and am doing much better on my med regimen. Prior to this, I had trouble concentrating and never slept. Even so - I have a master's in nursing and am now working on my doctorate.

I believe you can do it if you can tame the bipolar beast with medications, and make peace with the stability and calmness of being medicated. Being bipolar - we miss the excitement of mania.

If you get a chance, read 'An Unquiet Mind' by Kay Redfied Jamison', she is a well known psychiatrist and expert in bipolar disorder and director of the mood disorder clinic at Johns Hopkins, she also has bipolar I disorder. A brave woman.

best to you,


Edited by rn/writer

DolceVita, BSN, RN

Specializes in IMCU. Has 9 years experience.

Any news on the decision?

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

I would be more concerned with the OPs admitted lack of common sense and borderline traits than the physical issues. Having an impressive IQ really isn't necessary to be a great nurse, imo and while I'm all for pushing ourselves to pursue our dreams I feel that being practical is important also.

good points, but before we diagnose and discourage him online, hence my recommendation that he should get a letter from his psychiatrist stating he is stable on meds and able to take on the stress of nursing school - and if not, to defer until able. An undertaking like nursing school will need a team approach for someone with bipolar disorder: a good support system including family (if possible, or SO), a good psychiatrist, counselor, assistance from the school for having a disability as he will need some extra support.

I think I mentioned this in the previous email. . .

There are many nurses and physicians with mental and physical disabilities (as well as other famous people) who have not let their handicaps hold them back from being successful. But support - and encouragement - is essential.



Specializes in Emergency Department, House Supervisor. Has 15 years experience.

Hi, I am a bipolar nurse. I am also a mother, wife...and recovering addict who MADE IT through a Diversion program. I have succeeded in working as a nurse for 15 years, though I will not tell you that my illnesses haven't gotten in the way. I am not practicing right now. I am in a PhD program studying how nurses and doctors deal with mentally ill patients. I love what I do. Whatever 'isms I have...I am a nurse to my core.

I am posting a page from my blog here that exemplifies what it is like to be diagnosed with a stigmatized illness.

Psychiatry consult? No thanks. I am just your garden variety junkie. Besides, I really want to keep my abnormalities to a minimum. I want to look my best for the N-Stamping ceremony in 2 years.

What's that you say? It's in the contract? Well thank you then, I'd be most...grateful, for a psychiatric evaluation. Sounds like a good time.

(I already know I don't have any psychiatric illnesses though. I am a nurse, after all, and just because I am an addict doesn't mean don't have any insight.)

Well...tah dah!! Look who got lucky on the bonus spin!

Bipolar disorder would explain a lot Chuck, but I think I will go ahead and keep the prize I already won.

Yep, I'm happy with good old Addiction. Besides, I only have a one-car garage, and I wouldn't know where to park a big old Bipolar Disorder diagnosis; So just tell me where to make my co-payment and me and my addiction, we'll just be on our way.


Weight gain?

Cognitive impairment?

But that's not fair! I didn't even want to spin again!

I will not take medications!

What's that? I signed a release and you have to tell the BRN about this wonderful new diagnosis, about your recommendation for medications?

You say I have no choice...that I'll be removed from clinical duties? Well...okay...I guess then, that I would be...grateful...

As long as it's for my own good and all.

My quest for "normality" has just experienced a major setback.

The Medication Go-Round:eek:

Medication non-compliance is not unique to addicts. Add a psychiatric diagnosis, the initials RN next to your name, and a fierce determination not to have another stigmatized illness and you have a serious problem. It is called the medication-go-round and it goes like this...you take your meds...feel better...surmise you are well...maybe the psychiatrist was wrong...maybe it was sheer coincidence that you felt better at the exact same time you started taking the meds...so you stop the meds (or decrease one or two and raise another or whatever combination makes the most sense at the time)...and you feel good for a week or two...but you begin to notice some changes...you adjust the meds (the RN makes it possible to rationalize these changes to your psychiatrist)...some things get worse...and it begins to dawn on you...you are sick after all aren't you? You need those medications after all don't you? ...but now you can't reach for the magic pills or the bottle for the quick fix can you?... and calling your sponsor and going to a meeting definitely helps but not enough, so guess what...you have to call your psychiatrist...get new scripts...and maybe you are functioning at baseline again in a week or two. Unfortunately, as with the other aspects of your illnesses...you fail to learn from this month of lost living and you will do it again...and again...because you want to be Normal. But you are not Normal. You are insane...and each time this happens, you lose a little bit of the strength that used to get you through the bad times you didn't even recognize as depression. Boy, life at the carnival is just one fun ride after another.

Even during extended periods of high functioning, there are several-day stretches that defy you to even pretend for one second that you can function like other people. You can't go to work. You can't go to class. You are running out of lame excuses, but the truth is too frightening a thing to tell. You try it aloud in front of the mirror. "I have a chronic mental illness that occasionally leaves me unable to function for days at a time" No, no...It comes out sounding like, "I am a loser. I am a procrastinator. You should just write me off" Yep that sounds about right. And the rub...you are telling these excuses more often than not to fellow nurses: charge nurses, nurse managers, academic advisors, nursing professors...and if they are anything like you use to be (and they may not even know that they are)...you are definitely not going to risk telling the truth. So you stick with the worn out excuses that no one believes anymore anyway. As always, the sweet nurturing inner voice you have carefully cultivated is there to cheer you on, "You need to just SUCK it up and deal with it like everyone else Stephanie!" "It's not that BAD Stephanie!" "Why can't you JUST...BE... NORMAL... Stephanie!" (Watch out Steph, it's a trick question.):nurse::jester:

My main concern is how to juggle school, shrink appts and Dr. appts without harming my GPA, but I'm sure some accomodation can be made.


Use that ADHD hyper focus in school! It worked wonders for me, I think if you are interested in nursing and the learning material that can be a huge positive in school. Nursing always has me thinking, so i tended to use that hyper focus trait a lot. It worked, I graduated with honors. You can do this. Go for it.

One of my classmates in nursing school had borderline personality disorder. These things aren't unheard of. What's important is what is your baseline when you are compliant with treatment, and can you do the job with reasonable accommodations.

maybe you could get into psych nursing? nothing is more fun than "out borderlining a borderline".

short answer:

no, no no what part of no dont you understand

i went threw an rn program and they tried to get rid of all us males.....my iq is 165..i have a ms in another technical field and a bsn

the nurses out there will kill you when you first start!!!!!!

if you get experience they will accept you and then abuse you to lift and move patients

you cannot carry a 300 # person without hurting yourself...dont even try to tell me that **..i am a man

people with psych diagnoses have no business being a nurse.. it is a very hard job with incredible stress. any cracks you have already will turn into canyons....you will become disabled and all the trouble you went to will be for nothing

i am bothered by the amount of dysfunctional people that become nurses. there should be away to tell before we go to school.

these nurse here may tell you to do it. i know there are many dysfunctional nurses already out there, if i can stop another one from happening then that is great.

i worked psych...lots of crazy dysfunctional people....the staff have the keys..

icu had less crazys but lots of type a's (good)...some slackers that put the job on the others..smokers are the worst abusers

be real brother- you do not want to do this..you will fail.no common sense...that is why you are thinking about nursing

heterosexual me too but no one cares..male..extra problems..school will not think you are caring enough..nurses will think that you are on your way up the ladder and resent you...

this is just my opinion..but remember i told you..you will be sorry

frank rn, bsn

Edited by Silverdragon102
changed to **


Specializes in psych, general, emerg, mash.

if you chose to patronize an illness, it will bite you in the ass! like the gay people in the military of the USA, dont tell. But some people are smart enough to get the drift of your problem, then this will go through the group your working with like wildfire.

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