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Nursing School and Career with Back Problems

person115 person115 (New) New

Hi everyone,

I'm 36 years old and planning to start an accelerated BSN program in the Fall. I am a little nervous as to how I will deal with the physical aspects of the job. I currently have 5 herniated discs as well as arthritis in my spine and knees. Obviously this will not improve with age so I'm concerned about starting a new career at this age and what it will mean for me physically. Does anyone have any recommendations or advice on how the physical aspects of school and the job can be handled?

Thank you,

Mary

SilverBells, BSN

Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 5 years experience.

My suggestion would be to reach out to any schools you would be considering. What sort of accommodations would they be willing to allow? Would you be required to meet all clinical requirements or could they make some exceptions? Many schools are required to accommodate students with disabilities to a certain extent. Prior to reaching out to them, you may want to consider evaluating which area of nursing you are looking at going into. Evaluate the requirements of that specialty to see if you can truly meet the demands the job would require. If, after researching that specialty, you feel that you could be successful in that area of nursing, reach out to the nursing school and advocate that you are pursuing the degree for a specific reason. Outpatient or clinic areas of nursing may be more willing to accommodate you than a hospital or SNF might be.

Can you get your herniated discs fixed? How are you not in incredible amounts of pain? You do understand how much lifting is involved in bedside nursing?

It’s difficult to get a non-bedside nursing job as a new grad. What is your end goal? Why are you wanting to be a nurse with all of these issues?

I’m asking these questions to get a better understanding of how to respond to you. I had one herniated disc. I got it fixed. Best decision I ever made as I was struggling at bedside with all the pain and numbness I was feeling.

Jedrnurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in school nurse. Has 25 years experience.

I would recommend reconsidering nursing as a new career.

It's tough enough for established nurses when their bodies breakdown- it's not a good idea to go into it with those issues already.

Not to mention the stress of an ABSN program; I know with me that extreme stress can trigger back spasms...

KatieMI, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine. Has 7 years experience.

I would say either consider direct ABSN to MSN/DNP/PhD with no plans to work bedside in any capacity, or find some other way to serve humankind. The risk of severe back injury with unpredictable sequela is very real for bedside nurses and remains just as high or worse after every treatment or procedure known so far. There are plenty of jobs for nurses not requiring physical efforts but most of them of BSN level require "experience" which means years of bedside nursing.

You only got one life. Do not burn it for nothing.

CharleeFoxtrot, ADN, RN

Has 7 years experience.

18 minutes ago, Jedrnurse said:

I would recommend reconsidering nursing as a new career.

Just from the OP's description I am not sure she would pass the pre-employment physical. I honestly think that the OP should consider a different profession.

Sour Lemon

Has 9 years experience.

8 hours ago, person115 said:

Hi everyone,

I'm 36 years old and planning to start an accelerated BSN program in the Fall. I am a little nervous as to how I will deal with the physical aspects of the job. I currently have 5 herniated discs as well as arthritis in my spine and knees. Obviously this will not improve with age so I'm concerned about starting a new career at this age and what it will mean for me physically. Does anyone have any recommendations or advice on how the physical aspects of school and the job can be handled?

Thank you,

Mary

Your age is of no concern, but your pysical issues sound signifigant. Nurses who develop these issues well into their careers have options. It would be an awful position to be in as a student nurse or a new graduate, though.

Undercat, BSN, MSN, CRNA

Specializes in Retired. Has 41 years experience.

IMHO, I would think very carefully before sinking money into a nursing degree with a back as bad as yours. Have you considered medical technologist? You would use your undergrad degree and there are some specialties to advance your studies if you want. You can work when you are older in case you need to put in a lot of years before retirement.

Thanks everyone for your comments and advice. I appreciate everyone's feedback and thought perhaps I should give a little bit more detail. Some of the herniations are minor. I do have chronic lower back pain though, whether due to the herniation or not is not really established. I've tried physical therapy, trigger point injections and epidurals to no avail. I've had back problems since I was a teenager with no real explanation as to why. I've never really gotten a very satisfactory explanation for everything, though obviously now the herniated disks and beginnings of arthritis make sense. My rheumatologist didn't count me out when I asked her about being able to do a program if I got a good exercise program in place but I'm not sure how much stock to put in that (I'm not thrilled with her as a doc in the first place). I've wanted to go into nursing for years and finally have the opportunity to do so. However, looking at clinical schedules and thinking about the amount of physical labor involved is giving me a lot of pause.

CharleeFoxtrot, ADN, RN

Has 7 years experience.

Know that I say this out of compassion and am not being dismissive. Do you think that even with focused intense physical conditioning you can safely help lift and turn your share of 200lbs repeatedly?

Seriously consider your health. You might be able to do that today, but what about 10 years from now? There are plenty of us that started out in good physical condition that sound like Rice Krispies Snap Crackle Pop when we get out of bed every morning.

16 hours ago, LovingLife123 said:

I’m asking these questions to get a better understanding of how to respond to you. I had one herniated disc. I got it fixed. Best decision I ever made as I was struggling at bedside with all the pain and numbness I was feeling.

How? I have one and a pinched nerve and I'm afraid of back surgery.

BSNbeDONE, ASN, BSN, LPN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, LTACH, LTC, Home Health. Has 34 years experience.

9 hours ago, person115 said:

Thanks everyone for your comments and advice. I appreciate everyone's feedback and thought perhaps I should give a little bit more detail. Some of the herniations are minor. I do have chronic lower back pain though, whether due to the herniation or not is not really established. I've tried physical therapy, trigger point injections and epidurals to no avail. I've had back problems since I was a teenager with no real explanation as to why. I've never really gotten a very satisfactory explanation for everything, though obviously now the herniated disks and beginnings of arthritis make sense. My rheumatologist didn't count me out when I asked her about being able to do a program if I got a good exercise program in place but I'm not sure how much stock to put in that (I'm not thrilled with her as a doc in the first place). I've wanted to go into nursing for years and finally have the opportunity to do so. However, looking at clinical schedules and thinking about the amount of physical labor involved is giving me a lot of pause.

In nursing, you will be subjected to prolonged sitting, standing, and walking. That doesn’t include the many tasks you’d be performing in between and/or simultaneously. There’s also the occasional ‘code blue’ where CPR is a must, and the total care patient you’d be caring for when there are no aides for the entire shift.

I’d have to say no to nursing school if I were you. The positions that ‘might’ accommodate someone in your condition most likely already have experienced nurses lying in wait for an opening to be posted.

And lastly, I’ve encountered many an application that specifically asks, “Are you physically able to perform the duties of the position you are applying for?”. And you may be asked to attest to the accuracy of the statements in your application; and if you’re not and something happens during your employment, they can terminate you not because of your disability, but because you were not truthful about it.

Points to consider...

Swellz

Specializes in oncology, MS/tele/stepdown. Has 6 years experience.

How many times have you shadowed for a full 12 hour shift? I think that's something you need to do to understand what you'd be getting into. Obviously there are areas of nursing that require less physical labor than others, but do new nurses where you live and work get into those areas without a year or two of med-surg? Can your body tolerate a year or two of med-surg? If your goal is to avoid that type of nursing entirely, do you have the connections to do so?

Have you considered any other healthcare positions? I had no idea before nursing what else was out there. Respiratory therapist, imaging tech, occupational therapy, etc. There are many ways to work in healthcare if that's what you want. If you haven't investigated any of those areas, maybe check them out.

If you are reconsidering, ask your school about deferring your enrollment until next year. If you decide to go, don't be afraid to say that it isn't for you and drop out. If you find clinicals are too labor-intensive for you, just know that working the floor will be much more challenging.

Good luck!

4 hours ago, NurseBlaq said:

How? I have one and a pinched nerve and I'm afraid of back surgery.

Mine was actually in my neck. I had the disc replaced and then my neck fused. My nerve on the left side was completely pinched. I couldn’t feel my hand anymore. I’m pain free now and my life is so much better.

And it's not just standing, sitting, turning patients... it's crouching down and then having to get up again. I hurt my knee as a young nurse and crouching was the easy part, it was getting up again that hurt like heck. Luckily I did PT and it was short lived but I remember the pain very well.

My back didn’t appreciate the constant bending over and lifting I needed to do while working on the floor. I had surgery and thank goodness it’s way improved. My doc wanted me out of bedside nursing so I’m doing something else now. Nursing is very very tough on backs.

amoLucia

Specializes in LTC.

OP - it is a sad reality when you acknowledge that any slight, innocuous action might cause you to ZIG when you should've ZAGGED.

Like you walk into a pt's room and skid on a puddle of spilled water (the blind pt didn't know she had spilled some water!). Man, oh , man, the contortions I did doing a pseudo swan-dive pirouette avoiding the fall! Pulled muscles I didn't even know I had!

Things like that DO happen. It wouldn't take much to put you out permanently. Even a misstep on your cellar steps or your cat tangling up your feet can potentially put you out of commission, perhaps permanently.

It may be true that anything can happen outside of the work environment. But the nature of nsg puts you at such a higher risk. Your health would be at jeopardy all the time and that includes in school.

Sorry to be adding my concerns to all those of the PPs, but you seriously might want to consider other health-care tangential fields like Public Health, Medical Social Work, Speech Therapy, etc. All are respected professional fields and work closely within healthcare. But the physical demands should be less.

Good luck with your decision and your health.

Sorry to say , I don’t recommend it. As someone with stenosis, neuropathy, and a recent tkr mid 50s after starting nursing at 38, I did not expect that outcome . And I can lift fine,it’s the standing for 8 hours with no break that does me in.anytime I’ve blown a disc ,it was from something stupid , like twisting to pick up a grocery bag at home.

can you reconsider another vocation?or I suppose you could focus on informatics maybe ?good luck.

DowntheRiver

Specializes in Urgent Care, Oncology. Has 6 years experience.

On 6/14/2020 at 12:17 AM, person115 said:

Thanks everyone for your comments and advice. I appreciate everyone's feedback and thought perhaps I should give a little bit more detail. Some of the herniations are minor. I do have chronic lower back pain though, whether due to the herniation or not is not really established. I've tried physical therapy, trigger point injections and epidurals to no avail. I've had back problems since I was a teenager with no real explanation as to why. I've never really gotten a very satisfactory explanation for everything, though obviously now the herniated disks and beginnings of arthritis make sense. My rheumatologist didn't count me out when I asked her about being able to do a program if I got a good exercise program in place but I'm not sure how much stock to put in that (I'm not thrilled with her as a doc in the first place). I've wanted to go into nursing for years and finally have the opportunity to do so. However, looking at clinical schedules and thinking about the amount of physical labor involved is giving me a lot of pause.

Have you been tested for Ankylosing Spondylitis? It took me YEARS to get diagnosed because I had cancer and every doc thought my back pain and neuropathy was related to my cured cancer.

speedynurse, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

On 6/13/2020 at 11:28 AM, person115 said:

Hi everyone,

I'm 36 years old and planning to start an accelerated BSN program in the Fall. I am a little nervous as to how I will deal with the physical aspects of the job. I currently have 5 herniated discs as well as arthritis in my spine and knees. Obviously this will not improve with age so I'm concerned about starting a new career at this age and what it will mean for me physically. Does anyone have any recommendations or advice on how the physical aspects of school and the job can be handled?

Thank you,

Mary

I also have some medical issues so it has made things more difficult in my job. It is doable, but you have to re-think job choices, make adjustments on your job, and find alternative ways to do things. Have you thought of NICU or nursery after graduating? That will not be hard on your back or body.