Can I be a nurse with Miller Fisher variant of Guillian-Barre?

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by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I was diagnosed with GBS variant Miller Fisher two years ago. I got it again for taking flu shot for nursing school. Will I still be able to become a nurse or is it an impossible hurdle? 

Dear Diagnosed,

I'm sorry to hear about your health problem.

Miller Fischer syndrome is a rare neurological disorder related to Guillian-Barre syndrome. It's usually preceded by  an infection and some people, like yourself, acquire it after a vaccination. It's characterized by ataxia (loss of voluntary movement), opthalmoplegia (eye muscle paralysis) and areflexia (absence of deep tendon reflexes).

All of these can affect your vision, balance and coordination, but often these symptoms are short-lived. Some people go on to develop widespread GBS, and some people have a complete recovery. If you recover it won't necessarily affect your physical ability to perform nursing.

So while it partly depends on your prognosis, the other challenge is not being able to take flu shots. This could be more of a problem for someone trying to get accepted into nursing school as the schools require full vaccinations for clinical rotations in facilities, and schools are not obligated to accommodate unvaccinated students.

You could ask for a waiver, and your school will likely make a case-by-case decision.

Best wishes and hope you have a speedy recovery,

Nurse Beth