Becoming a nurse with scoliosis

  1. It's funny how this has never crossed my mind as a concern until now, after spending 2 years completing my pre-reqs and just before entering nursing school. But I happened to come across a post where someone was worried that a preemployment screen may cost them a job offer due to their scoliosis.

    At this point in my life (mid-30s) I don't know the degree of my curve, but I do know it is an S shape and I have an obvious rib hump, especially when bending over. And obvious enough to warrant some comments from ignorant people when they see me bend over such as, "ewwww...what's wrong with your back!" Sure, I experience pain daily, but I honestly don't know life without pain. Most of my career has been standing/walking for long periods of time, carrying/lifting heavy items (I was a waitress and also a flight attendant). I never let my condition hinder my abilities to do my job. I won't lie, there have been days I have gone home crying from the pain, but I am usually better after a good night's rest on a good mattress. Plus, to this day, I have only taken an OTC med for pain a handful of times (and it has to be REALLY bad for me to take them).

    I guess my question is...should I be concerned that I may not be "hireable" because of this? I'm starting to have anxiety over this, especially since I've been working so hard to achieve my dream and my condition has never once even occurred to me as being detrimental to my future nursing career.
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    About MsPebbles, RN

    Joined: Feb '10; Posts: 124; Likes: 163


  3. by   Rhi007
    I have a 30c curve of my lumbar spine, slight rib hump on left side, no natural curve in my C spine and I have a functional shortening of my right leg due to the curve.

    I don't think having scoliosis will impinge on working as a nurse considering your previous jobs.
    Not many people understand how painful a scoliosis can make your entire body and how exhausting it can be just to put one foot in front of the other. I must admit I'm heaps better since I had a shunt placement as I had excess CSF surrounding my spinal cord

    Good luck and remember to tell your employer about the scoliosis otherwise they can fire you for not informing them of a medical condition
  4. by   mappers
    Pre-employment screenings usually consist of a urine screen for drugs and possibly nicotine. I'm pretty sure Scoliosis won't show up on the (tongue in cheek....).

    An employer can put in a job description that you are required to lift so much and other physical requirements. As long as you say you can do this and you do not have a doctor saying you can't, then you are they should hire you (assuming you are the candidate they want.) That also means if you come back later and say you cannot do those things, they can fire you. Or they might be able to successfully fight a Worker's Comp claim if you injure yourself on the job. They could state that you took unnecessary risk in regard to your health condition, didn't disclose, etc.

    But an interviewer can choose not to hire you for any reason whatsoever. It could be because of a vibe you give off, how you answer a question, how you are dressed, etc. So legally, they cannot discriminate against you because of the scoliosis, but that doesn't mean they have to hire you.

    I say you need to be honest with yourself. If you think you can truly do the job, including the physical aspects of it, then go for it. If you are only going to be causing yourself more pain and more debilitation down the road, nursing is not the right choice. Don't worry about the employer, worry about yourself.

    If enjoy science and the pre-reqs you are taking, consider something like becoming a lab tech or a pharmacy tech. Those jobs may require standing and some lifting, but not pulling patients up in the bed, turning and lifting patients, having patients fall on you, etc. If its the care-giving, what about occupational therapy or speech therapy? Audiology? Respiratory therapy? I'm thinking there isn't as much lifting, pulling, etc with those jobs either.

    Nursing is a physically demanding job. Lots of nurses with healthy backs and knees end up with injuries and debilitation. It sounds like you are willing to do the work, but is it really the best thing for you?
  5. by   MsPebbles
    I appreciate your responses.

    I do understand the risk of doing more harm to my body in nursing field, but even with that possibility and knowing how physically demanding it can be, I cannot imagine not fulfilling this lifelong dream. I do understand there are countless positions in healthcare I could go into that are not as physically demanding, but I have no passion or desire for those jobs, and I honestly couldn't see myself doing anything else as a career.

    Also, I do understand that an employer can choose not to hire me for any reason unrelated to my scoliosis...I was just asking about this specifically, though.
  6. by   SwansonRN
    I also have scoliosis, although not as severe as your case seems. I will tell you that for my first nursing related job I almost didn't pass the physical. I was around 20, 99lbs, with scoliosis. The physician made me squat 100lbs of weights in a milk crate before he signed me off. It was embarrassing (I was wearing a dress and sandals) and I cried after the physician suggested I hit the gym. That was for a group home. For my first job at a hospital the physical was brief, I answered a few questions, gave a urine sample and was fitted for a respirator. Everyone was nice and my scoliosis was never brought up. I really hope you have a similar experience as the latter. Good luck
  7. by   limaRN
    I have scoliosis with a 35 degree curve and a 20- something correction- and s shaped curve and rather obvious. I wore a back brace for approx 2 yrs. I've been an ICU nurse now for nearly 3 yrs and worked as an LNA in a nursing home in school. I do not really experience pain like you do though. This never came up in my interview though they did ask if I would be able to lift/ turn at least 50 lbs.
    Just remember how important it is to use good body mechanics and never rush when turning pts or getting them out of bed. Always ask for extra help!
  8. by   Rhi007
    Also if a pt is semi mobile help them to do most of the work, don't let them be a dead weight.
  9. by   Caffeine_IV
    I have scoliosis and wore a brace as a teen. The back pain is usually tolerable but was excruciating during my pregnancy . Spend the money on good shoes. Exercise and use proper body mechanics.

    My scoliosis has never come up during an interview/hiring.

    Mine could be severe enough by now to possibly warrant a fusion but I'm scared to do so.
  10. by   MsPebbles
    I also wore a brace but I was younger but afterwards I kept growing and the curve progressed. I had also grappled with the idea of a fusion, but being out of work for 6-12 months was never financially feasible for me.

    I really appreciate everyone sharing their stories. You have definitely helped put me at ease knowing that my scoliosis won't be a roadblock to becoming a nurse!

    Oh, and by the way, I have recently decided to begin working on strengthening my core as I know that will also help strengthen my back and lessen the pain.
  11. by   eatmysoxRN
    I have severe scoliosis as well. I wore a Boston brace for multiple years as a young child. I experience little pain (I also ignored the pain when my wrist was broken in half so I wouldn't miss a vacation). I've never had anyone say anything about it. Just exercise caution. My back bothers me occasionally when I spend a shift rolling patients frequently.
  12. by   Sue Damonas
    I had a fusion for scoliosis when I was a teenager and another for a displaced L5-S1 vertebra. I too have lived with pain most of my life. I've been a nurse for over 30 years and the scoliosis was never brought up by an employer, just discussed with the person doing my pre employment physicals. I live with the pain and just keep moving.
  13. by   MsPebbles
    Well, I'm bumping my own thread from a year and a half ago because I'm now facing what I had been dreading: a pre-employment physical for a hospital job. And just my luck, the questionnaire I have to complete explicitly asks if I have Scoliosis and/or back pain. Ughhhh. I'm going to be honest with them, but now I'm really freaking out my offer will be rescinded.
  14. by   T-Bird78
    I've been a nurse for 6 years and was dx with scoliosis just last month (finally went to a chiropractor!). A pre-employment screening asked about back pain, which I put as mild, and the physical exam was noted that I couldn't bend over and touch my toes, which concerned the screening nurse, but I got the job anyway. Good luck.