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So a few months back I took the Strong Interest Inventory and my top matching occupation was Registered Nurse. I was just wondering if any of the RNs on the board could tell me how they manage having a MI and holding down a nursing job at the same time.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook says: "They need emotional stability to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses." While perhaps an obvious fact about nursing, it is one that gives me serious pause.

What else can I do to find out if nursing is for me? I've read about all the different speciallizations and educational requirements.

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I have been a RN since 1992, I was 22 yrs old when I graduated nursing school with no history of mental illness. I went to work in the Surgical ICU. By the time I was 23 I was often in charge of a 20 bed ICU. How I pulled that off at such a young age is still amazing to me. With 14 yrs experience under my belt and a diagnosis of bipolar I mixed with psychotic episopes, I know I couldn't do that today.

My first manic/psychotic episode landed me in the psych hospital (involuntarily) at 29 yrs old. After a few months of a mental health vacation I jumped right back into the stressful situation of being an ICU nurse again. It was hard as hell. As much as I loved working in ICU, I knew the stressors were too much for me to manage in a healthy way. I managed the stress by self-medicating, not a good idea, and I had also stopped taking my psych meds (they made me too "fuzzy" to think clearly, which is a must in nursing!)

After years of keeping my head above water I knew I had to make some serious changes in my career to stay healthy. I transferred out of ICU, which is my passion, for a much lower stress level nursing job. Unfrtunately, outside stressors (husband, grad school, working full time, and experiencing one of the worst natural disasters in history) landed me back in the hospital last year. Now I take my meds, even though I would rather not. I also try to have a regular sleeping pattern, which is very difficult, since I never seem to want to go to bed, there are just so many other things to do! So I FORCE myself to take something to sleep, (Serraquel) then I wake up groggy and take something to keep me awake Aderall), I also take Lamictal and Xanax and Zoloft. It reminds me of the song, Go ask Alice, (one pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the one that mother gives you, doesn't do anything at all!) I know that without medicine I cannot manage a normal sleep/wake pattern. Just like I can't have "appropriate" moods without the medicine.

There are so many options for a RN, and many of them are less stressful than others (working in the well baby nursery is one low stress level position that comes to mind). That said, in order to get there, you have to survive nursing school. That is a very stressful situation. There is a nationwide nursing shortage (including instructors), so many schools are forced to turn down qualified students because of the lack of faculty to teach. It is extremely competitive to get into a nursing school in many areas. Then once you do get in, you realize what a hard, stressful curriculum you have to complete.

If you want to test the waters, I would suggest you do some volunteer work at a hospital or nursing home. If you don't have time to do volunteer work, then I would suggest trying to get a job as a unit secretary or nursing assistant. In order to survive the stressors of nursing, you have to really take care of yourself. You have to put up boundries to protect yourself, without appearing heartless. You cannot let yourself become consumed by your profession, i.e., calling to check on pts on your day off or going to work on your days off because they are so short staffed. You go to work, you do your job with as much compassion and empathy as possible, and learn healthy ways to manage your stress. i.e., taking time to care for yourself. I won't lie and say I exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet or work in my flower beds. But I do take time out for myself to get a mannicure, or a massage. I will treat myself to a day at the bookstore and read a good book. These are all things I enjoy. I feel it really comes down to knowing your limits, your triggers, and substituting unhealthy stress releivers with positive stess relievers. The one thing I have learned that is very true... If you do not take care of yourself, then you can not take care of others. And of course, a good therapist is a must, and unfortunately so is taking the freakin' medicine! That is my biggest struggle, taking my medicine. I do it, but it is always with relunctance. I absolutely hate taking my medication.

Good luck to you!

edited to mention another good resource for finding out if nursing is truely something you want. Visit the website www.allnurses.com and read some of the posts, it will give you an insight into what nursing is all about, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I once thought I wanted to be an RN so I went to school and got my STNA (State Tested Nurse's Aide) certification. It was the best thing I could have done because it allowed me to work side by side with the RN's in both hospital and nursing home settings. Doing so taught me that I really didn't want to be a RN after all.

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Yes I agree...voluneering or working as an aide/assistant is a sure way how to not want to become an RN. You half to know that it is something you really want to do because nursing school is very demanding and stressful. The prof's treat struggling student's like crap to see if they break. Night shifts are extremely difficult and the pay is not that great unless you are specialized. You are guaranteed a job once you graduate. Try to take the required basic classes like anatomy, intro to psych, sociology etc... before you take your first year to make your placements a little easier. Who wants to do a paper on multiculturalism paper with so many care plans due? Also get study books for the licensing exam early. Then you will know the most important stuff up start and will not concern yourself with knowledge that isnt priority i.e learning all the muscles when the most important ones are those where you need to give injections.

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  • 1 year later...
Guest Jeanie Bryant Para-medical
Yes I agree...voluneering or working as an aide/assistant is a sure way how to not want to become an RN. You half to know that it is something you really want to do because nursing school is very demanding and stressful. The prof's treat struggling student's like crap to see if they break. Night shifts are extremely difficult and the pay is not that great unless you are specialized. You are guaranteed a job once you graduate. Try to take the required basic classes like anatomy, intro to psych, sociology etc... before you take your first year to make your placements a little easier. Who wants to do a paper on multiculturalism paper with so many care plans due? Also get study books for the licensing exam early. Then you will know the most important stuff up start and will not concern yourself with knowledge that isnt priority i.e learning all the muscles when the most important ones are those where you need to give injections.
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I love being an RN. I graduated from nursing school in 1992, at the age of 28. I worked my way through, as an EMT (emergency medical technician) in a local ER. It was a great job to have while in nursing school, as I got to see a lot of things that I would later do. I wasn't on my meds then, and hypomania, frankly, worked in my favor--I slept about 5 hours a night, and overachieved my ass off. Nursing school is brutal. The instructors are very hard on you, and in my school, at least, there is a very clearcut "weeding out" process. Interestingly enough, psych was my LEAST favorite rotation. I was self-medicating with alcohol when my hypomania started heading towards full-on mania.

I spent the first 8 years of my career as an open heart ICU nurse. I drank, and didn't take my meds (they made me too "fuzzy"). I had several charge nurse positions, and live all over the Rocky Mountain west, including Alaska. I worked tons of overtime, and had periods of deep dark depression that I barely made it through. In 2000, my drinking had accelerated to horrific proportions, and I finally reached the end of my rope. I went to rehab, got sober, and started taking my meds.

I was pretty fried, on the whole ICU thing, so I worked in Recovery Room, and then, OR. I quit taking my meds, again. Stayed sober. Ultimately, I had a massive mania, got psychotic, and ended up in the hospital. Back on the meds. I took six months off to really get my head screwed on straight, and changed the direction of my career to rehab. I've been working at the same place for the last five years, have taken my meds religiously since that hospitalization, and have been promoted all the way up to Director of Nursing. I'm making six figures, I still love nursing, and can't imagine myself doing anything else. I'm much happier, now that I'm stable, and sober (8 years now). I look back at those years when I wasn't taking my meds with wonder (as in I wonder why I didn't die).

I hope this gives some insight. Feel free to PM if you'd like.

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