Can I still become a nurse after being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos?

  1. Hello all!

    I have been working towards getting pre-reqs to apply to an accelerated BSN program, but unfortunately was just diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Hypermobile type). In case you're not familiar, this is a connective tissue disorder that puts me at much greater risk for joint injury even though I seem otherwise young and healthy. So far I've only experienced a knee injury. I will be starting Physical Therapy soon to strengthen muscles surrounding joints, but there is no cure. The specialist I saw advised me against any heavy lifting. I didn't connect the dots when I was at the appointment (a lot to take in), but obviously this would prevent me from being able to lift patients.

    Is this a dealbreaker for me to pursue a nursing career? Is there any way around it, such as specializing with lighter patients (infants?) or a nursing path that doesn't require heavy lifting? I know there are nurses with disabilities/ injuries that occurred after becoming a nurse, but I'm not sure what would happen to me knowing I'm going into this field with a limitation.

    Thank you!
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    About britebeads

    Joined: Jan '18; Posts: 1; Likes: 1
    Specialty: 1 year(s) of experience


  3. by   Here.I.Stand
    Does your school have a lifting requirement? I was pregnant prior to starting my job, and my OB wrote their typical 25lb lifting restriction. I was informed by employee health that my unit was unable to accommodate lifting restrictions; no 50lbs, no job. (In case that's confusing, I made my OB change my fit-for-duty documentation. I lifted my 50lb children without incident all the time.)

    My point being, it doesn't appear that it's not an ADA requirement to change physical standards.

    Are you able to manage your pain without opiates (sedating) before/during your shifts?

    Are you willing to put all of the time and effort required for nursing school, with the knowledge that your job prospects are limited? (Everyone and their sister want to work in the NICU, and non-bedside positions usually require years of experience.) If so, and if nursing is very important to you, go for it
  4. by   brownbook
    Your post surprised me. A distance relative has an unfortunately more severe type of Elher Danlos. It is so rare. I'm sorry for what you're dealing with.

    I know little about whether or not nursing school or employers can legally reject you.

    There is an Elhers Danlos support site, they may be able to help guide you through your career.

    Best of luck.
  5. by   thoughtful21
    Before I started nursing school, I didn't realize how many different opportunities there are in nursing. It's incredible!
    Maybe these links will be helpful to you:
    Types of Nursing Careers & Specialties ||
    Are there any nursing jobs that involve sitting down most of the time? | Nursing News, Stories & Articles | Blog
    I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I hope things go well!
  6. by   Here.I.Stand
    Quote from me
    My point being, it doesn't appear that it's not an ADA requirement to change physical standards.
    Oops, I meant "it doesn't appear that it IS an ADA requirement..."
  7. by   Nonyvole

    I've hEDS. They think. Knees, ankles, elbows, hands, shoulders, neck, chronic pain...several months of hard-core PT got me back to a point where I didn't have to use my braces at work, and sticking with the home program that got set up by my PT keeps it that way. I haven't used a cane in a couple months, and my crutches are currently gathering dust in a closet - used to use them to walk any sort of distance.

    And I've been working just fine. I went into nursing with these issues. I'm sticking in nursing with these issues. It makes me more empathetic with my patients because hey, I get chronic pain, I get a chronic condition that has dramatically affected my life. (I've given up on my dreams of through-hiking the Appalachian Trail just me and my dog. It's okay. The Zumba is more of an issue.)

    In short, it is possible. Work with your doctors, learn what best controls things like any pain. Do your exercises. Learn how to best make things work for you. Don't try to be a super-nursing student, lifting 300-pound patients on your own. You've had one knee injury - keep up with PT and keeping things strong so that your risks of dislocations stay lower.
  8. by   vanilla bean
    There are so many options for employment as a nurse that there's a very good chance you'd be able to find a role that wouldn't be as physically strenuous as bedside nursing. But, you do have to make it through nursing school and the vast majority of clinical time is spent learning on adults. I would suggest making an appointment to speak with an advisor at the school you're interested in attending to discuss your concerns and learn about accommodations.

    It sounds like you are still able to maintain a relatively productive/active day-to-day life, so you may be able to manage the physical rigors of school. My sister has Ehlers Danlos and has been rendered unable to work (non-nursing/non-physically demanding profession) due to her chronic pain and physical limitations, so severity and progression of disease varies individually. Good luck to you and best wishes.
  9. by   traumaRUs
    Moved to Nursing with Disabilities
  10. by   Nonyvole
    Oh, and something else that I thought about. Learn your pain triggers, and anticipate them. Me, I can tell when a bad storm is coming because I hurt all over, I move slower than usual, and as coworkers put it, I "just don't look like [myself]." So I make sure that I have warm compression clothing to wear under my scrubs for those bad days, and take OTC pain meds. Brain fog? I have a different type of nursing brain, one that doesn't go into all the details that the usual brain does for an inpatient nurse, but it keeps me on track through my day.

    Now, nursing school is a whole different kettle of fish. You know how you best learn, so use those study habits that you already have. Good compression pants will work wonders for clinical rotations, as will a regular exercise/PT regimen. (I know, so easy to type, so hard to actually do.) Try not to shout out that you have loose joints, because that puts you on the radar for all the wrong reasons.

    Finally, attitude. I'm a pessimist by nature, and my thing at work is "yeah, it's not the greatest, but I'll survive." I've survived over 10 years in healthcare, and I'll survive many more. I just take it one shift at a time, with plans for the future to advance my career.

    Oh - and I work/have worked everything but NICU.