interviewing after surgery

  1. hi all- first off, i'm giving this background info *not* to ask for a diagnosis, but to give you a better idea of what i'm up against. sorry this is so long...

    i graduated in may, and started working in july in peds at a large hospital- i was having pain in my hip at this point, but only after standing for a full shift or walking several miles. I started having serious problems in late august/early september; my hip continued to get worse, and after numerous non-surgical treatments, MRI's, and four different doctors, i was diagnosed with a labral tear. the problem has gotten so bad that i'm not able to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time, and i've fallen on numerous occasions because my hip freezes and my whole leg goes numb. I'm scheduled for surgery on November 30, and went on unpaid leave as of last week, because (1) i was in so much pain i simply couldn't stand or walk enough to do my job; (2) i feel that some of these symptoms pose a patient safety issue, especially since we hold the little kids quite a bit; (3) my physician put me on activity restriction and said i should only do sedentary work, as constant standing and walking would probably do more damage.

    here's my problem: my hospital gives anyone not qualifying for FMLA a cruddy deal...we don't get short-term disability until we've been there 3 years, and any non-FMLA leave is considered personal leave, so they don't have to hold my job. my manager told me her unit is overstaffed, so i'm fairly certain i won't have a job to come back to. for this reason, as well as several others, i'll be applying at other facilities while i'm recovering from surgery. Depending on how complex the problem is, i could be in good enough shape to go back on the floor between four and six weeks out, and off crutches after the first two weeks. So, my questions are:

    1. should i wait to interview for jobs until after i'm off of crutches, or until after i've been medically cleared to work again? I think going in for an interview using a walker or crutches is probably a bad call, but this is really an acute problem, like breaking an ankle.

    2. how much information about why i went on leave should I give in these interviews? I don't want to be too cryptic about it, especially since i only worked as an RN for 4.5 months before going on leave; at the same time, i'm very reluctant to divulge too much of my personal medical information, as i was burned by that in my current job.

    i'd especially like to hear from people who've been in similar situations.

    thanks!
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  2. 2 Comments

  3. by   llg
    It's a tough question. But I would be totally honest -- particularly if you are expected to make a full recovery and have no restrictions. If you are secretive, they might think the problem is going to be chronic and that you will miss work frequently because of it. That will make them hesitant to hire you. If you lie about it, then they will automatically terminate you for lying if they ever find out about it.

    Don't be surprised, though, if your old job becomes a possibility again after your surgery. Don't burn your bridges there. You haven't been there long enough to have FMLA ... but if you have been a good employee, you might go to the top of their list once they can be reassured that your surgery was successful and that you will be able to come back "full strength." They are not promising you anything now because they don't know that for sure yet ... but once you are cleared for "active duty," they may welcome you back. Some situations change with time.

    Good luck,
    llg
  4. by   Daytonite
    I wouldn't start applying for jobs until you know the exact date you can start work. You won't need a release from your surgeon unless the doctor doing your pre-employment physical exam for the new employer asks for one. As you are healing you should start to have some idea of whether or not you'll be able to tolerate the standing and walking again. I wouldn't go to any interviews on crutches--dead giveaway that you have an ambulatory problem--unless you're interviewing for a desk job.

    I would only reveal only that I ended my career at my previous hospital and wanted the extended time off to heal from elective surgery rather than keep the other employer thinking I would be coming back. It makes you look very responsible. The doctor who does your pre-employement physical will want to know about your fresh surgical scar. Otherwise, just reassure a new employer that you are good as new and ready to get to work. Deal with any problems that come up later. Chances are you are going to know if you are going to have ambulatory problems long before you start any new job. Are you going to be doing any workouts in a gym as you heal?

    It is not always good to reveal too much. You obviously had good insight and made a good decision about handling your work and medical problem. I trust you will do the same with your next job. I have degenerative disk disease as well as spondylolisthesis. It kills me to stand for longer than a few minutes. There is desk work available although you really have to look to find it. Knowing what was happening to me I started studying medical coding and my expertise as an RN is highly valued in that profession. As I was getting worse I worked in LTC where I could sit down to do a lot of nursing procedures. I used a med cart as a walker (!) and saved standing for when I absolutely had to. The facility was well aware of my physical disability, but wanted me for my expertise and experience. There are places like this out there in the working world.

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