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Epilepsy and Employment

Posted

Hi-

I have epilepsy, and I've had the diagnosis since I was 10, although I suspect I was actually having seizures for several years before that. I have only ever had absence seizures, but family members on both sides of the family have had more severe seizures, so it is always a concern.

I take Zarontin 2x250mg twice daily, and have been well controlled for many years. The last time I had a known seizure was 2004, when I was 14 years old. Although was always usually aware when I had a seizure, I am concerned that, especially since I haven't experienced one in so long, that I may not recognize one.

My question though is, have others with epilepsy found it harder to find employment? I am supposed to graduate nursing school in a month, but am dealing with problems with the night shift. I know that i cannot do nights because when I've had sleep deprived EEGs in the past (both with and without medication), I've had seizure-like activity or seizure activity. So as a new grad, will it be difficult for me to get a job working days? And would I be better off not mentioning a problem until I am employed? As far as I know, once I am employed by an organization, they would have to accommodate my need to work days under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I have never viewed my epilepsy as a disability before, as it hasn't limited me much in terms of what I am able to do. I am able to drive, and have never had an accident because of a seizure. However, I am currently dealing with my nursing school having assigned me straight nights (3 nights in a row at a time) for my preceptorship. I never documented a disability with the school, because I didn't think it would be a problem since I had explained my need to work at least mostly days to the person in charge of preceptorship assignments. Does anyone have any advice for how to proceed with this issue? I am supposed to start my preceptorship in a week, and have emailed the person in charge of placements, but I am worried that she will just tell me that it's too bad and I have to deal with it.

Thank you!

OrganizedChaos, LVN

Specializes in M/S, LTC, Corrections, PDN & drug rehab. Has 10 years experience.

Epilepsy is a disability & she can't tell you to just "suck it up & deal with it". If you are starting to have issues with your epilepsy due to going to clinicals at night I would speak up.

I have had epilepsy since I was a freshman in high school, I will be 27 next month. I have grand mal seizure when I am sleep deprived. I am up front with all employers & tell them I have epilepsy & I don't apply for night shift positions. I have had a seizure at work. I was working PRN at a county jail. The DON had me working 8s, 12s, mornings, eves & nights. Because of that crazy scheduling I couldn't sleep well & one night it all caught up to me.

You know your body best. If you feel something is off, tell someone. If you need more sleep, sleep. If you shouldn't work nights, don't.

ixchel

Specializes in critical care.

I have left temporal lobe epilepsy, reasonably controlled by vimpat. A bystander wouldn't know I was having them, much like absence seizures. In fact, when the conversation about epilepsy first came up, the initial thought was absence seizures, until we found the location of them.

I was terrified of nights because, like you, I do have activity when sleeping. I kept an open mind, as nervous as I was. I applied for a position knowing I would have nights that I have to work. At the least, I have to do 3 nights in a six week period. I went into this knowing I may end up needing to ask for consideration for schedule changes, but I had to give it a try first. I had landed my dream job.

But backing up to job applications, though, this is not something you disclose until your medical screening. Be sure to have a conversation with your neurologist before applying so you know you have her (his) blessing. When you go in for your medical screening, you bring a note from your neurologist saying your epilepsy is well controlled. (My word is it ever! Over ten years!) And then keep an open mind about nights. Sleep habits are extremely important to be mindful of. For me, personally, nights have not increased my seizure activity at all. I haven't had a single seizure while working. I have on days off, but for specific reasons (vomiting for days SUCKS!). I think, for me, the key is ensuring I have adequate sleep as opposed to keeping a specific schedule. Perhaps you'll experience the same!

Talk to your neurologist. Their encouragement and support may help you feel less nervous. You can also PM me anytime. I'm kinda new to the epilepsy thing, but wouldn't mind sharing my experiences, what's worked for me. OrganizedChaos and I were just talking about this last night - OC is rather knowledgable and helpful, too. :)

I think honesty up front is the best thing, in the short term and especially the long term. You want an employer who supports you, and wants you on their team. Also, if you did get the job, and then decided to leave, they will remember that you weren't up front with them from the start.

jamisaurus

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 1 years experience.

I wouldn't tell your employees about it. I only told my charge nurses in case something happened. I work night shift and it's been no problem at all-- I make sleep a priority and am diligent about my meds and Low caffeine intake. I was really nervous about doing nights but I was fine.

I wouldn't count on getting a job offer if you state you can only work days.

sirI, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Education, FP, LNC, Forensics, ED, OB. Has 30 years experience.

Thread moved to Disability forum for best response.

ixchel

Specializes in critical care.

To clarify - I wasn't saying don't tell them at all. I was saying it doesn't belong on the application or in the interview. It should be brought up in the pre-employment health assessment.

It needs to be documented in your employee health file so that you and your employer are protected. But if what you are saying is accurate, there is no cause to believe it will affect your ability to do your job. Soul search to decide if you believe this is true, and consult your neurologist to see if they agree. Many, many nurses work days and nights with epilepsy without incident.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pedi. Has 10 years experience.

My question though is, have others with epilepsy found it harder to find employment? I am supposed to graduate nursing school in a month, but am dealing with problems with the night shift. I know that i cannot do nights because when I've had sleep deprived EEGs in the past (both with and without medication), I've had seizure-like activity or seizure activity. So as a new grad, will it be difficult for me to get a job working days? And would I be better off not mentioning a problem until I am employed? As far as I know, once I am employed by an organization, they would have to accommodate my need to work days under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Well, kind of. They have to make "reasonable accommodations." If you apply for a night shift position and are hired for a night shift position, it won't be considered a reasonable accommodation to change you to days. If you apply for a rotating position, it may be reasonable to do day/evening as opposed to day/night rotation.

Reasonable accommodations also have to be made for religion. You couldn't, for example, be hired for a Baylor (12 hr Sat/Sun) position and then say "I observe the Jewish Sabbath, so I can't work Saturdays. You must let me work Sun/Mon and still give me all the benefits that come with Baylor."

You've been seizure free for a lot longer than I was when I graduated nursing school. I was 4 years seizure free when I finished, I did day/night rotation for 4 1/2 years and never had a problem.

NurseGirl525, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

I have epilepsy. I have complex partial seizures and grand mal. I take neurotin, keppra, and Topamax. I have been seizure free for almost 5 years. Sleep is a huge trigger for me. I'm glad we don't do overnight clinical, but if I did, here is what I would do.

Get plenty of sleep ahead of time. I would prep days in advance. Sleep when not at clinical. It's only 3 days. You don't think you could adjust for 3 days? I'm sure you could if you prep appropriately.

I would not tell anyone. Clinical instructors are nurses and word could get out. I don't tell employers or many people. I don't want to be viewed as different or it be a hindrance to getting a job. I worked hard to get here.

If you pull the ADA out at a new job, you are sealing your fate. Don't apply for night positions. I think that's simple. I also think with proper planning you can make it through this clinical.

I was diagnosed at 22. It took me years to get them under control. I almost died on one occasion. An injury during a seizure caused a blood clot which broke off and became a PE. I spent over 3 months in the hospital that time. So, to me, to get where I'm at today, I don't want to be discriminated against from the start. I want to be seen for the hard working, caring, compassionate person that I am. Not for my epilepsy.

I used to have petit mals/absent seizures untill i was about 12 or 13 and then started having grand mals after a head injury. About a year after i started having grand mals I went to the chiropractor. This wouldn't work for all epilepsy but If you have pain in your neck go see one. My atlas vertebrae was constantly out and pressing on my vega nerve causing all my seizures. After several weeks of going to the chiropractor and getting my neck to stay in place I stopped having seizures and weened myself off of the meds. I am 23 years old now and haven't had any seizures since i was about 14-15 years old. Sorry that this isn't a response to the post but this could save a life If you have epilepsy and constant neck pain or headaches, go to the chiropractor to get it checked out.