Can I be a firefighter with Tourette?

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Please note: Articles on lived experiences can be a trigger for those with tics, OCD and anxiety disorders. Articles are intended to show we aren’t alone, and that help can improve quality of life.

Being a firefighter requires high levels of focus, fitness and pressure handling. 

Tourette can pose a challenge for some, depending on the severity. As always, we provide an insight into someone with Tourette overcoming this hurdle and becoming successful in the field.

Tribive– a news site based in Western Pennsylvania- ran an article on a retired firefighter. 

Jay Goodman didn’t know why he had ‘nervous tics’ growing up. It was too expensive to see the doctor. He was 54 when the above article was published in 2007.

Despite the setbacks, he joined the Army and then the Pittsburgh Fire Department.

He found information about Tourette, and attended an event through a Tourette Association.

It is unclear from the article whether this association was the Tourette Association of America. The TAA was running for over a decade at this point.

Goodman didn’t just succeed as a firefighter, he became ‘vice-president of the Pennsylvania Tourette Syndrome Association and president of the association’s Western Pennsylvania chapter’.

A beautiful and inspirational story for anyone looking at this as a career option.

As Goodman found out, tics don’t automatically disqualify someone from becoming a firefighter. 

Some departments- nationally and internationally- list disqualifying conditions on their website.

A shoutout to the City of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada!

On their dedicated website, it mentions criteria for joining the city’s fire department, also linking to the National Fire Protection Association.

It states the following:

“Any neurological condition that results in the candidate not being able to safely perform one or more of the essential job tasks”

Basically, Tourette is not a disqualifying condition, providing it isn’t preventing a firefighter to safely perform the required tasks.

This is why Tourette always need to be assessed on a case by case basis.

If you wish to be a firefighter, go for it. Be honest about tics if you know they could possibly pose a challenge or a danger to yourself and colleagues. 

It is understandable to be concerned that recruiters may discriminate, especially with a lack of knowledge about Tourette.

Goodman proved that having tics wasn’t an issue, and he was able to prove his worth and skillset to get the job.

There are many other factors recruiters take into account when hiring, so keeping focus on meeting the required criteria outside of Tourette is equally important.

Good luck with your application!

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DISCLAIMER: Articles contain lived experiences, but cannot be used to diagnose. Medical advice can only come from trained professionals. 

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