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Questions from My wheelchair about Nursing

Totalnoob Totalnoob (New) New


I have a few questions and wanted some opinions, so please read and reply if you have the time.

I have been in a wheelchair for about 13 years now. I can stand for several minutes at a time but other than that I pretty much have to be in the chair to get from place to place.

About 10 years ago I met a lovely lady and we fell in love and have been together ever since. At 34 years old she decided to go back to college and three years later she received her BSN degree. She has now been a nurse at a local hospital for 2 years.

While she was in school I would help her study nearly every night. I learned a lot through reading her nursing books and grading her practice tests, etc. I made her flash cards, read chapters to her, etc. I enjoyed learning and thought even then that I might enjoy the nursing profession if I weren't in the chair.

The problem is boredom on my part, especially at night when she works. I have not worked in 13 years and I am really bordering on depression because I have come to hate TV, staring at these 4 walls, etc. I want to get out and interact with people and get out of this house. I used to work in Corporate management in Chicago before a bad car accident put me in the wheelchair and I spent a couple years re-learning how to do things.

I have sat here in my living room for the last 2 years watching my wife go to work every weekend and do her 12-14 hour shifts. I have researched nursing and NP schools for many months. My wife went to NSU and they have a great program but there is another school within driving distance that also offers a BSN program. I'm not positive but if I applied to both schools I'm hoping one of them would be willing to work with me as far as me taking nursing and being in a wheelchair.

I think I could stand or kneel on the floor long enough to get the CPR certification. As far as re-positioning a patient, my father was recently in the hospital to have a pacemaker put in and me and my wife had no problem re-positioning him. I just stood up out of my chair and I stood on one side of the bed while she stood on the other. We grabbed the sheet under him and both pulled up and sat him higher in the bed.

If I am able to do these things, I'm thinking maybe I have some chance to make it? I am in a unique position because I really don't need to graduate and start making money. So I was thinking if I could graduate with a BSN, I'd like to find a school that would let me jump straight into a Masters program and become an NP. I'm thinking about 6 years of college would keep my mind busy and occupied.

Not sure how tough finding a job would be after that point, but at least I wouldn't have wasted my time watching TV for the next 6 years. You think I'd have trouble being in a chair and completing school? What about jumping from BSN straight into an NP program?

Well, it may be possible but it would certainly be a long shot. I've known a lot of nurses with a lot of different disabilities over my decades in nursing, but have not (yet) encountered anyone predominantly dependent on a wheelchair or otherwise with significantly limited mobility. I can certainly understand being bored and wanting to get out of the house and be employed, but does it have to be nursing? There are so many other occupations that don't require that degree of physical activity. Even within healthcare, there are occupations that don't involve the same degree of mobility and physical activity. Social work? Counseling?

People are going to come along behind me and assure you that you should go for it, they're sure you'll be successful, there are lots of nursing positions that don't require that you be mobile and physically active, and that is somewhat true, but the catch is that most of those activities require a significant amount of general acute care nursing experience to be considered qualified.

Have you not worked at all during the last 13 years? How come? Has something changed recently that you weren't able to return to school or work before but now you are? Are you determined not to return to what you were doing before?

Also, you never mention what your wife, a working RN, thinks about your plan. Have you discussed this with her? She knows your physical abilities better than anyone here, and she is familiar with the demands of nursing practice. What's her opinion?

I think it'd be very difficult for you to get a job as an RN. Many hospitals have cramped spaces--I am fortunate to be employed in the new wing of my hospital, where rooms and bathrooms and elevators and hallways are designed to be accessible for a wide variety of people that may come to the hospital--you can comfortably fit a wheelchair in the room and a bed will fit in the elevator for transport. At the old wing? You play Tetris with wheelchairs and beds and hope that no one trips over the wheelchair between the two beds because that is the only place it will fit.

Also, if a code were to happen to your patient, your wheelchair may be more of a hindrance than a help. Are you able to roll your wheelchair quickly if an emergency happens? How about helping a patient to get up from a fall? Toileting patients who needs one person to help them up and to walk with a walker? How about getting medications? Some med rooms have shelves that you have to reach for to get meds...are you able to do that?

Perhaps you can find something else on healthcare where a wheelchair won't be hindrance at times. I've seen social workers, addiction workers, managers, and dietitians in wheelchairs. Maybe those will be a better fit?

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

When I was in graduate school (1990's), I knew someone who was becoming an RN at the same school who used a wheel chair. I don't believe this woman could stand much, if at all. But her situation was a little different.

She had been a successful Physical Therapist prior to the care accident that left her paralyzed. After her accident, she had returned to her career in Physical Therapy and became well-known in the field of caring for patients with mobility problems. She wanted the nursing education to augment her PT career so that she could expand her care of patients to include more nutrition, skin care, etc. Her plan did not include becoming a staff nurse and providing physical care of inpatients. She was in a program for graduate level entry into the nursing profession and planned to continue as a PT, augmenting that with patient teaching as a nurse on all aspects of wellness.

I recommend you check out a website called "Exceptional Nurse" -- which is a site for nurses with disabilities.

Good luck.

NurseGirl525, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

I don't know if you honestly could get into a nursing program because they require you to pass a physical which includes lifting a certain amount of weight. Mine was 50lbs. That's where I see your problem. You can work in the medical field if you choose though. We have people at my hospital in wheelchairs. They work on the administrative side. In order to become an NP, you first have to become an RN. That will include clinicals in school and some type of bedside experience to be accepted into an NP program. How would you hop up into a bed when a patient suddenly codes? Can you stand long enough to reposition obese patients? There's just so much to think about here.

Your best bet is to go a school and speak with an advisor. You don't need to sit at home and be depressed all day. There is so much you can do with your life. There are jobs out there that you can find fulfillment in, I promise. You just need to take the time and look for them and see what the requirements are and obtain additional schooling if need be. And there are jobs for you in the medical field. I just don't see nursing as one of them. Maybe look into working in the lab or blood banks. That would keep you close. There are so many different opportunities in the medical field. Take your time and find what you would like.

Good Luck on your journey.


Specializes in Oncology, Rehab, Public Health, Med Surg.

I think you could get a job as a experienced nurse in a wheelchair. Probably not many openings in the hospital unless maybe education. There are phone triage, case management, nurse educators, even some Dr office jobs could be workable outside of hospitals. As a new grad Experience might be an issue but with the right attitude and perseverance, you could overcome that.

Having said that, I don't know how you could do nursing school. As a RN you could skip jobs that require more physical skills than you're able to do. As a student, you can't skip anything.

I hope you find a way, though, and please keep us updated

It's doable, there are people who sustained SCI before or during school who were able to complete the required skills during school and go on to obtain employment in nursing, medicine, occupational therapy, as well as other health professions.

caffeinatednurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-surg, telemetry, oncology, rehab, LTC, ALF.

Why not become a PA instead? You could then get your bachelor's degree in whatever you want (as long as you complete the prerequisites) and proceed on to a master's degree in physician's assistant studies. I might be wrong but I don't think there's as much of a physical component to the PA role and you wouldn't have to work first as a nurse.Schedule

HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education.

I echo the concerns of PPs who feel that nursing may not be the best choice. I've worked with a few wheelchair bound nurses - due to accidents or chronic illness after becoming a nurse, but they were all in administrative roles.

I know a Lab Director with spina bifida who has been been in a wheelchair her entire life. It hasn't stopped her laboratory science career. There are a lot of healthcare career options for talented people with limited mobility.


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