Can I Be a Nurse With Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I am a student who is considering pursing a career in Nursing (BSN) but here is my problem. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was 13 (over 5 years ago) and barely have an immune system, which doesn't come in handy when working with sick people. I can walk (with pain) only on strong medication and I'm wondering whether I should go for nursing at all considering my physical limits.

    Dear Wondering,

    Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) or juvenile idiopathic rheumatoid arthritis (JIA) is an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue and cells and causes joint inflammation.

    There are nurses with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who manage their illness and work full time, but everyone's progression is individual. I had a clinical instructor I admired who soaked her hands in a basin of hot water each morning to alleviate the pain and stiffness. Another nurse I worked with was a wound care nurse who worked until age 65. Yet another nurse with an immune system problem I know is still working at age 66 and goes for monthly infusions to boost her immunity.

    That said, the fact that you have difficulty walking without pain at age 18 would present a challenge in clinical settings. You have to be able to move quickly and cover a fair amount of distance on busy units. What's more concerning is your immune system. You would be exposed to contagious and transmissible organisms that could compromise your health.

    Have a conversation with your doctor about your concerns and limitations. Your health is the most important consideration. There are other helping professions that might be right for you.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth
    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!
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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,574; Likes: 4,733
    Nursing Professional Development Specialist; from CA , US
    Specialty: Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho