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Dyslexia and nursing school: Can it work?

Home > Ask the Guidance Counselor > Nurse > Dyslexia and nursing school: Can it work?

Question:
I'm a senior in high school and I would love to become a nurse but I have dyslexia. I'm scared that I will be going to school for nursing but then find out I can't do it because of my dyslexia. I don't have much longer to think about this because I'm done in January. I will be going to college right after I'm done in high school. Could you please help me? Thank you

Answer:
Dyslexia should not be a reason for you to rule out a nursing career. If you have been able to overcome your dyslexia and complete high school, the same approaches that you have used successfully in your high school classes can be the starting place for you to be successful in college. Dyslexia typically refers to a reading disability. Certainly your college experience, whether or not you are a nursing major, requires you to be able to master written materials. If in the past you have worked with a tutor, or books on tape, or taken tests in an auditory form, those options should be available to you in college as well.

Nursing school: tips for students with learning disabilities

Nursing students are required to complete the core classes that are common to their degree level, either associate degree or bachelor's degree. They are also required to complete the basic science courses that form the foundation for understanding health and disease processes. These courses include anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and microbiology. For students without an aptitude for science, those courses are the first hurdle into nursing school.

Working with study groups, and finding study skills that work for your learning style, along with hard work to master the material, are approaches that can work for you as they have for others. You may for instance be allowed to record class sessions and lectures rather than relying on written notes. Your college should have an office which provides services to students with disabilities. You should become familiar with the services available at your school and use them to your best advantage.

Clinical courses are less oriented to reading but still require you to use language skills to prepare for your experience, and to record and document the care you provide. The increasing use of computers in both the academic and clinical settings should be helpful to you. If your clinical site still uses handwritten nurses notes, you could probably use dictation equipment.

Resources for nurses with disabilities

There are advocacy and support groups available for nurses with disabilities also. Contacting groups as you begin your student experience could give you helpful information and tips to anticipate and prepare for any challenges that may lie ahead. Two sites you might find helpful are the Job Accommodation Network and the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities.

You should begin as soon as possible to apply to nursing programs at the colleges you are considering. Some colleges use a direct entry option into the nursing major, while others require students to complete the nursing prerequisite courses before applying for acceptance. You can also evaluate whether you are interested an associate degree program, typically 2 years in length, or in a bachelor's of science in nursing degree. Both degrees allow you to sit for the NCLEX exam leading to licensure as a registered nurse.

Nursing, like many other professions, benefits from having a diversity of people within its ranks. Your experience as a person with dyslexia may turn out to be a strength rather than a disability in the long run.

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