Published Jun 5, 2016
You are reading page 3 of Tell my manager or keep the bipolar hidden
Don't tell your manager about it or else they can use it against you at a later time. If you start having performance issues, whether they are related to your illness or not, the manager could have you referred to an assistance program or something of that nature even if it is not warranted.
Rather than be specific about having bipolar disorder, you can simply state you have a psychiatric disability which requires accommodation, if it indeed does.
VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN
Another thought about your dilemma: if you choose to disclose, you should wait until you've established yourself on the floor and shown your competence. This may not happen right away, but if you are a valued employee, that should mean something. Also, I keep asking myself, if nurses don't address the stigma of mental illness, then who will? We are advocates and educators. You know your illness doesn't define you, but by hiding it you are accepting a stigma that does want to define you. It's not easy changing attitudes, but we nurses with mental health issues are the best suited for this role.
The trouble is, we may not define ourselves by our diagnosis, but you can be sure that others will. The workplace isn't the hill we should have to die on. I agree that those of us who have bipolar and other mental illnesses are the best suited to changing the stigma, but the sad fact is that most of us can't afford it financially.
I've been an RN for 7 years, and been dealing with my bipolar disorder for the last 15 years. I would not recommend sharing your diagnosis with your bosses or coworkers. Unfortunately, it's a diagnosis that is very misunderstood by many healthcare workers. In a world where "bipolar" is used as an adjective describing someone with unpleasant, annoying, and even psychotic behaviors, instead of only used as a medical condition, there IS a stigma. People say things like, "I can't stand Mary, she's like totally bipolar!" It has become an insult. It disgusts me. You would never hear someone say "I can't stand Mary, she's like soo diabetic!"
I have found that many great nurses have mental health conditions such as bipolar. I feel like having bipolar, it has given me great empathy towards others and drives me to give the best care possible at all times and connect with many patients, and putting them at ease when they feel they usually would feel like they are being "judged". No, I do not disclose my diagnosis to my patients either.
You must remember that you have to take care of yourself first in order to be able to provide great patient care. Keep on top of your diagnosis with regular dr appointments and find people that you can share your problems with that will support you. Have a safe plan in place. Someone that can recognize your symptoms when you may not. You can apply for intermittent FMLA in place to protect you from being fired for missing too much work. (Refer to your HR to ask how you do that. It's usually through a bird party company so you still are not disclosing your Dx to your employer). Your medical history is private and no one's business at all. You have no obligation to tell your employers.
Good luck to you. I started out on a busy Med-Surg/Tele floor on nights. The ratio was 8 patients for every 1 nurse at night. I hated it! Most of the staff and the nurse manager were just toxic. I left as soon as I got enough experience for a better job for me. I now work in a very busy inner city ED and love it! Bipolar or not, staying in a toxic environment will greatly affect you mentally and possibly physically.
Penelope_Pitstop, BSN, RN
Keep that under wraps...trust me.
My reason for wanting to disclose is null now that I know I can apply for FMLA via HR and leave mgr. out thx so much!
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