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Getting into to nursing school with Bipolar depression and anxiety?


I know some nursing schools have a health history portion. I've been diagnosed with Bipolar depression and take medication for it. I don't take any controlled substances for my anxiety. It's treated with the Saphris and Paxil. My question is can one get into nursing school with these disorders?

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.

Yes, you can get into nursing school, and yes, you can be a nurse with bipolar disorder and anxiety. A lot of us have done it, even though nursing school is tough and demanding. It takes a combination of medication, therapy, good health habits, and self-awareness.

It's my understanding that many schools of nursing request health histories and/or medication lists from candidates prior to the start of their programs. I would advise you to ask what the information is to be used for and who will have access to it. Remember, your personal health information is protected by HIPAA, and you do not give up your right to privacy when you become a healthcare professional.

That being said, it might be a good idea for your dean or program director to know about your illness in case you need accommodations down the line. It happens. And even further down the line, you may have to answer health questions when you apply for your first nursing license. Some states are quite strict---Texas comes immediately to mind---and while they won't outright deny you a license based on mental or physical illness, they may require you to be in a monitoring program for the first few years.

But all that is far off; I'm only posting the information because forewarned is forearmed. It would be awful if you made it all the way through school only to have to jump through an extra five hoops when you go to obtain your license. In the meantime, do what you can to get your illness under good control and be ready for the challenges of nursing school---make sure to take your meds every day, see your doctor often, eat properly and exercise, and maintain a regular schedule for sleep. No all-nighters for you! It's amazing how helpful good sleep is. I had a devil of a time getting my own BP under control, even with multiple medications, until my psychiatrist put me on a sleep schedule (at first I resented it and called it "my curfew"); now I'm reasonably stable and have been for some time.

You can do this! There are a number of us here at AN who live with bipolar disorder and/or anxiety disorders; I hope some of them will weigh in on this and offer their sage advice. Wishing you the very best. :yes:

poppycat, ADN, BSN

Specializes in pediatrics; PICU; NICU. Has 43 years experience.

Hi, bekahinpink & welcome!

I, too, have bipolar. I have bipolar type 2 so mine goes more toward the depression end than mania. I also have a very long history of anxiety with panic attacks. I've had problems with depression since I was 7 years old but didn't get the correct diagnosis until I was 48. In spite of this, I made it through nursing school and then (25 years later) completion of my BSN. It can be done but, as Viva said, you have to take really good care of yourself.

Do not pull all-nighters! Do not overdo caffeine! Do not drink to help you cope with the bipolar (trust me, I made this mistake).

Most important: do not "advertise" your diagnosis to too many people. Unfortunately, there is still much stigma associated with mental illness. Sad to say, healthcare professionals can be some of the most judgmental. Viva has a good idea about letting the dean know about your bipolar in case you need accommodations at some point. Otherwise, it really isn't anyone else's business.

firstinfamily, RN

Has 33 years experience.

I agree with Viva and Beka, it would be wise to let the Dean of the Nursing program know upfront that you have a mental illness. Most likely a lot of your classmates do as well but don't know it yet. You do have to be careful about who you let know this and I also agree with you limiting who you let in on your private information. Realize that the stress of nursing school may exacerbate your symptoms so it is important that you have some control, maintain a routine schedule as much as possible, keep taking your medications, maintain your therapy sessions, and use the healthy coping mechanisms to overcome the stress. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep will go a long way to help prevent any flare ups. Don't get overly wrapped up in all the competition, grades or performance, brown nosing of your classmates and you will help prevent some of the causes of the increase stress. Good luck, and by the way, I would much rather be taken care of by an obscessive compulsive nurse who constantly checks on the patients than one who is taking breaks every half hour!!

vintagemother, ADN, CNA, LVN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Psych, Geri, LTC, Tele.

A Friebd of mine in nursing school had bipolar disorder. It was hard for her, but she graduated and makes $29/hr now.

I have a different psych dx also. I'm so glad my school didn't ask me to disclose this. Several classmates had psych dx and are now working.

I was on meds and many of my friends were. I suggest keeping your dx private and only disclosing when required. My jobs did ask if I was taking meds. I did disclose. It wasn't an issue at all.