HELP Recyle disabled nurses

  1. I know that I am not the only nurse who is no longer working as a nurse due to a back injury. In the US, OSHA requires that you be able to lift 50 lbs to work on the floor as a nurse. I can't.
    My "reasonable accomodation" was a move to watch heart monitors on the med-tele. floor where I worked. I also took quite a pay cut to do this. My only other option was to be unemployed.
    I have my BSN, ACLS and over 15 years of nursing experience. I can't lift much, but I am still capable of starting IVs, inserting foleys, giving meds, assessing pts and knowing when a pt is in trouble. Frequently, I am a resource person to the nurses I work with, answering questions and debating options.
    Years ago, I saw a news story on this nursing student who graduated and worked from her wheelchair. I can still walk, but am not allowed to work as a nurse but someone in a wheelchair can? This doesn't make sense.
    There is a nursing shortage. It is bad....I see the shortage every day at work. I have good clinical skills and experience. And I am not alone. Is there any way that we can recycle and use nurses who are still able to perform a great deal of the core skills required in the daily routine of nursing care?
    Can anyone out there (or here) help us......We want to help you by being able to do the work we have been trained to do and by working with you.
    Thank you for your help.
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  2. 100 Comments

  3. by   shay
    Have you thought about working in a NICU or a newborn nursery? I know quite a few nurses w/back injuries who transferred to nurseries....much lighter lifting requirements.
  4. by   fedupnurse
    I think hospitals should hire people in your situation to help precept and mentor GN's! This would free up the staff to take regular assignments and lighten the load on the other non-precepting staff of the floor. I would think hospitals may be afraid to hire you due to risk of re-injury, but in a poasition such as this, your chances of re-injury are very low. A former colleague permanently injured her back at work and they tried to FIRE HER. I said call a lawyer. She did and the issue was resolved. She ended up leaving of her own accord to try something new in nursing that our hospital didn't offer-Prison Nursing!!!!!
  5. by   Agnus
    Teach your skills and knowledge. You can offer CE courses. Write, Teach new CNA's. Teach wellness and other issues realated to you expertise in the community.

    Most nurses I know in your situation teach. My sister included. I am not disabled but that is the direaction in which I am moving. Write for journals text books or speciality books in nursing.

    Nurses are natural teachers we have been doing this all along. Teach new or perspective students. Don't let that knowledge die in your wheel chair.

    Do seminars. Inservices etc. the possibilities for teaching are limited you your immagination. Tell you personal story.
  6. by   mattsmom81
    Mercykitten, there are LOTS of nurses in this forum in your situation and I am one of them...I tried to watch monitors too for 10 bucks an hour to keep my mind occupied (but then the employee health nurse came up with a 20 # lifting requirement so I couldn't do that either...LOL!)

    It is difficult for bedside nurses to give up bedside care, but after a severe back injury it is essential we start 'thinking outside the box' as Agnus has alluded to. We have much to offer!! You have your BSN...have you considered getting your Masters and teaching or running a staff development program or a new grad internship program? Working for the government agencies as a facility inspector? Public health? Docs office? Lots of options to consider.....

    I do not qualify for many of the positions I would like to have myself, because I do not have my BSN...so I may be heading to college in time to finish it up. Your BSN will open lots of doors for you when you decide on the direction you want to head.

    I know when you are hurting it is hard to pull yourself up sometimes. I hope your pain is under control so you can see some light at the end of the tunnell and move forward.

    Please keep posting....there are lots of us like you and we need to share out stories and learn from one another! Best wishes.
  7. by   mercykitten
    Thanks to everyone who has replied so far!
    My hospital won't allow me to do either babies or peds because they pull nurses from those departments when census is low to adult floors (where lifting would be an issue). Recently I have been considering looking for a weekend position in a pediatric hospital in Louisville. If all the pts are peds, lifting should be much less an issue.
    I have also considered teaching.....but need my MSN for that. That would take a while, but my family's financial situation is getting worse. When I was moved over to the monitors, I took a pay cut greater than my monthly mortgage payment. To make matters worse my husband has been unemployed, just recently found a part time job.
    By the way, I am NOT in a wheelchair, but had seen a news story on a nurse in a wheelchair a few years back. I was wondering how a nurse could work in a wc, why can't I work since I still can walk?
    I know that it is a safety issue, but feel that willingness on the part of hosp. administration and government could work around that and "reasonably accomodate" my disability. If I was in the military, I would just order the coreman or some person of lower rank to do the lifting for me. But I am a little old for the military now and they wouldn't take me because of the back injury.
  8. by   disher
    A position that doesn't usually require lifting or an MSN is clinical trial co-ordinator, does your hospital have any doctors who conduct clinical trials? You could ask them if they are looking for a co-ordinator.
  9. by   suzannasue
    mercykitten,
    Several of my friends are now disabled due to on the job injuries and they have been cast aside such as misfit toys. Put on "light duty" is a joke amongst us becuse light duty is considered pushing a med cart down the halls or filing in 6 feet high cabinets (tempts me to tear the rotator cuffs of nursing administrators just to see how much filing and pushing they can do!!!) I agree with the idea of precepting if unable to take pt load...however,if precepting one may be expected to pitch in and help with lifting,etc...
    Perhaps as part of our nursing education,there should be a course regarding the issue of what to do,where to go when a nurse has sustained a physically altering injury,on the job.
    Does your facility have a telephone triage position? Does it have a triage position in the ED that would only require you to interview and do initial vital signs on pts????
    I wish you the best mercykitten...will keep you and your family in my prayers!!!!!!! Keep us posted!!!!!!!1
    Each night before going to work, I must massage lotions and potions all over my joints just to keep them workable...I also take OTC analgesics q 4 hours...it aint pretty!!!!!!!
  10. by   P_RN
    After over 2 decades of working at the same hospital, getting injured and attempting to return, I am considered a "do not rehire."
    I NEVER got less than a "significantly above the standard" on my evaluations, and I was at the top of my clinical ladder.

    The ONLY thing I did was apply for workers compensation. The ONLY thing they did was FIGHT it. I won. But I guess I lost too.

    And I know THEY lost a dam*ed good nurse.

    "Now we are broken toys"....I can relate to that.
  11. by   Agnus
    You stated you need your MSN to do that.
    Perhaps to teach RN students. Maybe even LPN students. However there a a lot of other people you can teach.
    I hear you focusing on what you can't do and if onlys.
    You made an interesting remark. If you were in the military you could get other's to do the work. Try thinking about how you could still do that.
    If you keep focusing on can't the only things you will find is what you can't do. My sister is in a wheel chair she does staff development and trains CNA's.
    I know nurses who have a full time business providing CE for CNA's.
    I know a nurse who has a business as a diabetic educator. and no masters degree. If memory serves she doesn't have a BSN either. The public wants to know about thier conditions health problems and wellness and are willing to pay. The nurse who is diebetic educator recieves funding from the county and VA for seeing their patients.
    Please, forget about what you can't do. Get that word out of your vocabulary or you are defeated before you begin. I know you know this. It's just sometimes we get overwhelmed and can't see the forest.
    You are not in a w/c that is a plus. You are already way ahead of some nurses. You have ACLS have you considered becomming an ACLS instructor? I talk about teaching but there are other things too. Think about it. Please.:kiss

    There is case management, breast feeding instructor/consultant. Child birth classes. Parenting classes, discharge cooridinator, infusion specialist, Dialysis nurse, Wound/ostomy specialist, You might look at what you have learned about your injury and the job related problems you are encountering and see how you can use what you have learned about this to help others, You might have to negotiate to create a position (one that doesn't currently exist) for yourself at you job (or another facility) You will have to be creative and do some selling, but this is something that is done all the time. You might consider going freelance and offering your special service as an indipendent contractor.

    I am sure you can think of even more ways to use your speical talents.
    Last edit by Agnus on May 25, '02
  12. by   LLDPaRN
    Why facilities make things hard on nurses who injure themselves is beyond my comprehension. About a year and a half ago, I hurt myself at work---slipped on floor and jammed my shoulder in trying to brace myself during the fall. Ended up missing about 6 days of work. Could not be put on "light duty" b/c there was no such thing anymore (huh?!?!). When I was evaluated in employee health, the doc recommended I stay out 3 more days (had already missed 3 days). Never seen such a look of hatred in my manager's eyes when I told him this :angryfire.

    Anyway, mercykitten, I wish you the best of luck. I'm sure you can find something else out there that will make use of your valuable skills....just keep looking

    Mattsmom....why in the world was there a 20lb lifting requirement for a monitor tech position?????

    Laurie
    Last edit by LLDPaRN on May 25, '02
  13. by   mattsmom81
    Laurie, I'm sure 'someone' wanted to eliminate me. Fairly normal practice for an injured nurse to encounter, I'm hearing.

    Actually 3 high level managers wanted to 'get my foot in the door' and groom me for a management position they had opening up. I was a former employee and they knew me (these managers had back problems too and were sympathetic to my dilemna)

    Unfortunately, the employee health nurse in cahoots with risk management put the whoahs to our plans. Oh well. We live and learn....I've put that behind me. They lost a good nurse.

    We truly must become creative and positive minded once we are injured or it is too easy to give up. You are so right Agnus, we musn't defeat ourselves!!!
  14. by   mercykitten
    One of the reasons I posted this thread is for the sake of other nurses who are in the same shoes. They were injuried on the job and their hospital just tossed them away. These "throwaway nurses" are the ones who risk their lives coming to work in blizzards, post tornados, flooding etc. We lived our lives being loyal to our hospital, coming in when they were short etc.
    Another reason for posting this is to educate all working nurses to the fact that if they are injuried on the job or off the job, their hospital may very well "toss them away".
    Now, someone is probably thinking that I am angry over my treatment and I need to get over it. I am angry but not just for myself. Nurses will always be disposable unless we all stand up for each other to get fair treatment in every aspect of our work.


    Angus, thank you for your comments. I am not trying to focus on what I can't do, but to communicate my situation. The military example doesn't mean that I want to get out of work. I just need someone to do the lifting. If I had someone to hold the pt. over for me, I'd be glad to clean them up from being incont. and changing bed sheets. I can do that. I can still push IV meds, give all other kinds of meds, start IVs, put in foleys, assess pts.
    Like Mattsmom81 said, sometimes the hospital is just out to get rid of a less than totally able employee. I have put in for several positions at my hospital that wouldn't require lifting, or that could be worked around, but the hospital would then go back and add lifting requirements to the positions. That happened with admitting nurse.....which essentially just fills out the admitting paperwork!

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