Would love realistic advice/alternatives for prospective BSN student with bad back

Nurses General Nursing


Hello all,

I just wanted to reach out to some practicing nurses who are in non-hospital positions and might have some advice for someone looking with a bad back looking for future options. I have read on these threads limited advice for people with bad backs. Some of the alternative options to hospital work were psych wards, case management, nursing homes, in home care, etc...

If anybody is in any of those areas, or ones that I have not mentioned that might be relevant, I would love to hear a little bit more about my potential options. I really want to become a nurse and help people better or maintain their health. I do not have a science background, but it fascinates me, and I can't wait to begin classes.

I don't want a desk job or one that is cut off from patient contact. The direct means of working with each patient is one of the main reasons why I am attracted to the nursing field. My back could heal in the future, I just can't expect it to heal very quickly. It has been injured three years with relatively useless advice along the way from the gamut of medical professionals. I have come to terms with it, found myself to be my own best doctor (as well as the one I can best afford) and know that it will take a long time to heal, while I maintain my stretching, swimming, and walking. I know that it could not take the stress of general hospital work, from what I have heard of the myriad positions. I can walk and stay on my feet and be active all day. The grand irony is that I love physical work, and feel healthiest and strongest when physically active yet mindful of my actions. But, I would not be able to be lifting and moving and leaning and bending all shift long.

Can someone with a bad back realistically make it through nursing school safely even?

If any one can share their experiences in relation to schooling and job advice it would be greatly appreciated. I have narrowed down my schools, and am about to begin taking prerequisites for the next year and half. I just want to know if I will have options with a weaker back than most. I have two non-science degrees and love to learn, but am not eager to spend the next few years working toward something that will not allow me to put my knowledge to work.

I realize that I am a bit naive, but hope that there is some means to become a nurse, and not be constantly jeopardizing my own physical well being. Thank you so much for any advice shared...

Specializes in acute care med/surg, LTC, orthopedics.

And for those who think mechanical lifts do the job for you.... NOT. Try getting a sling under a 300+ lb pt who is unable to roll. Can take up to 6 nurses - 3 on each side. Not all places have ceiling lifts which means you still have to maneuver the lift = impossible.

Every nurse will have a broken back by the time he/she retires.

Specializes in Critical Care, Education.

Lots of great advice has been provided. I just want to add some additional information.

It may be next to impossible to even get a nursing job if you cannot fulfill the "physical and functional" duties outlined on the job description. These will clearly spell out the type of activity that is required -- e.g., "lift 50 lbs" . As part of the hiring process, the applicant is always asked whether he/she can fulfill all of these requirements. If you are untruthful, it is equivalent to providing false information on your application which is grounds for immediate termination.

Back injuries are one of the most common claims, so employers are getting much more conscientious about preventing future disability claims - some even include this as part of the required pre-employment physical.

I agree with PP's - nursing is not a realistic career choice for anyone with a bad back.

Yeah, just bad career choice overall...

Even if you become an NP or CNS, it'll be less taxing on your body and you will get the patient contact that you want, BUT you'll still be on your feet a lot. If you want to be a nurse educator, you need to have years of nursing experience (preferably floor experience) which is not ideal for your bad back. And speaking of nursing experience, it won't be easy getting an advanced practice nurse job without the floor nursing year experience under your belt---much like the dilemma the RN new grads are faced with now...no experience? no job!

What about nursing research in a lab or working for a pharma company? Talk to your nursing faculty and see what they recommend. You can't avoid the damage nursing will do to your body. I don't care if you have lifts on your floor, a lot of aids, or other nurses willing to help... your body will feel pain or get damaged sooner or later.

Thank you all for your advice, realism, and inspiration. I have much to think about and reflect upon. I am likely leaning towards seriously reconsidering my ability to become a nurse, one who has the capability to be at the bedside for the majority of my career. The physical gamble would likely be too great, or at least a constant threat or potential liability.

I am a big, visually healthy and relatively strong guy, but my back is more than just a bad back. The minor part of which is a herniated disc. That pain is nothing. If that were the extent of my issue, I would be full steam ahead with the BSN. The real issue comes form the lack of advice and knowledge from all the professionals I have seen for my back, as well as the fact that now I do not have insurance. To be my own doctor, to distill all that I have heard from my physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, accupuncturists, and add that to what I have researched and feel within my physical being, I would say it is a hypermobile sacroiliac joint.

I'm waking and sleeping on all this, but it seems by best and most secure options would be ones that deal with working with people to improve their living conditions and aide in solving their problems, but without the heavy physical demand on myself. MSW programs have and do spring to mind. Thank you again for all that has been shared, and I wish you all the best in your incredible work, and future work!

Specializes in FNP.

Look into MPH programs also. You may find public health policy and advocacy stimulating and appreciate being empowered to help whole populations as opposed to individuals. Populations cant spit on you or refuse to wipe their own buts either. ;-) Good luck.

Social work and public health are both good alternatives. Occupational therapy may be another good choice -- still working directly with people in a hands-on way to help them solve real problems. Somewhat similar to physical therapy, but more focus on fine motor skills and tasks and less lifting. The occupational therapists I've known over the years have all really enjoyed being OTs (more so than most of the RNs I've known have enjoyed being RNs ... :)).

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