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Do I share my medical history as part of my story to become a nurse?

Nurses   (1,503 Views 36 Comments)
by LeviY LeviY (New Member) New Member

81 Profile Views; 2 Posts

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Hello, I appreciate the advice and insights given from so many Nurses through this site. 

I'm a new LPN graduate looking for my first job. Last year while in clinicals I was diagnosed with cancer and had to withdraw from my nursing program to go through treatment. I have since then completed treatment, finished getting my LPN degree, and I'm in full remission. 

I recently had a relative tell me I shouldn't let any future employer know that I had cancer because they could reject me as a good candidate for fear that my medical history could be future problem for them, both in time and insurance cost. 

The cancer I had was Burkitt's Non-hodgkin's lymphoma and remission rates are extremely high so it is unlikely it will come back. 

I feel that my cancer experience has only farther given me insight and compassion for those suffering with health issues and it has in my mind become part of what is going to make me a better nurse. So my question is, how should I present myself and my story to future employers? 

Thank you for any insight you may have. I look forward to the day when I can move on to get my RN degree and overtime move from a new grade to a professional experienced nurse.

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36,690 Posts; 96,674 Profile Views

For Pete's sake don't divulge a cancer diagnosis to a prospective or an actual employer!

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NightNerd has 5 years experience as a ASN, BSN, RN.

819 Posts; 15,785 Profile Views

I'm pretty sure they can't legally discriminate against you based on medical history. This really depends on your comfort; I know I would not want to share a ton of personal information in an interview, as it's really about how you will meet their needs as a nurse. If you feel it's appropriate, you can always briefly say that your past experience as a patient has reinforced your goals as a nurse, whatever they may be; then focus on other academic and professional experiences. Best of luck with the job search!

Edited by NightNerd

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2,839 Posts; 18,373 Profile Views

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JadedCPN has 13 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU.

674 Posts; 7,141 Profile Views

I personally wouldn't recommend saying anything beyond the vague statement NightNerd suggested of how your experience as a patient has helped shape you, IF you truly feel it will give you a leg up. But that's it. I definitely wouldn't throw the C word out there. Nope.

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kp2016 has 20 years experience.

236 Posts; 3,230 Profile Views

 Never in a million years. There is a reason why they can’t legally ask you!!! Do not volunteer the information!!!

For the record I have lost jobs before that I was by far the most qualified for. Friends on the inside told me why they choose a considerably less qualified applicant, because I was stupid enough to volunteer information that I should have kept to myself. 

Edited by kp2016

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myoglobin has 11 years experience as a ASN, BSN, MSN and specializes in ICU, trauma, neuro.

504 Posts; 3,728 Profile Views

I wouldn't disclose before being hired. However, afterwards I would "be ready" to apply and activate FMLA, if I had any concerns about disease relapse. Also, keeping a strong immune system (meaning adequate rest/sleep between shifts) may be an important part especially for you of staying healthy. Thus, if this became an issue (for example your employer scheduled you with three on and then only gave you one day off before another three on), I would consider raising the issue of the previous diagnosis (again after being hired).  

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459 Posts; 3,723 Profile Views

NO WAY!! NEVER!  Not even after being hired. They cant ask and you SHOULD NEVER divulge that info if you want a job, not even on the pre-employment physical. I wouldn't even bring it up to colleagues. Just NO! 

Oh, and congrats! 

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myoglobin has 11 years experience as a ASN, BSN, MSN and specializes in ICU, trauma, neuro.

504 Posts; 3,728 Profile Views

6 minutes ago, scuba nurse said:

NO WAY!! NEVER!  Not even after being hired. They cant ask and you SHOULD NEVER divulge that info if you want a job, not even on the pre-employment physical. I wouldn't even bring it up to colleagues. Just NO! 

Oh, and congrats! 

I certainly agree that you shouldn't give this sort of information before being hired. However, afterwards is a matter of personal preference and belief system. I believe that most people are loving, and sincerely desire to help others (especially their coworkers). People are best equipped to help others when they have a more complete picture of the challenges that they have faced in the past and struggle with currently.  Thus, there are coworkers who I know have "back issues" and I put in extra effort to help them bath their patients, turn their patients and transfer their patients (from the ICU to the floor).  We had a nurse undergoing chemo at one point.  It helped me understand why she was moody and feel asleep once or twice during a shift for a brief moment.  Again, it is a personal choice but I would tend to tell the world even if I were impotent or incontinent, but I am probably at one end of the spectrum in more ways than one.

Edited by myoglobin

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2 Posts; 81 Profile Views

Thank you all of you for the advice! 

I'm proud to have become a nurse and the more I learn the more respect I have for everyone who has gone before me. 

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marienm, RN, CCRN specializes in Burn, ICU.

203 Posts; 3,948 Profile Views

I agree that disclosing your personal details is probably risky. One counterpoint, though, for your consideration: I am a 2nd career RN who left a niche career (ie: something most people don't know much about) to go to nursing school. Part of my decision was based on some major family medical events. I did talk about this in interviews as a way of explaining why I had been drawn to nursing- how my experiences with nurses had opened my eyes, etc...  So, the reason I'm mentioning this is you *might* consider vaguely mentioning your experiences with nursing/healthcare as an inspiration. I would only bring it up in answer to a question like "what drew you to be an LPN?" or "how do you think you'll make a difference for your patients?"

Just food for thought. Congratulations on remission, and good job hunting!

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177 Posts; 789 Profile Views

14 hours ago, scuba nurse said:

NO WAY!! NEVER!  Not even after being hired. They cant ask and you SHOULD NEVER divulge that info if you want a job, not even on the pre-employment physical. I wouldn't even bring it up to colleagues. Just NO! 

Oh, and congrats! 

Just out of curiosity, if the pre-employment questionnaire/physical asks "have you ever had any type of cancer,"  you should fib & say no? Is this what most people do?  lol.   

Could that be grounds for firing later on if it somehow comes up or they wouldn't dare because it's discrimination??

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