Nursing with a Back Injury

  1. 0
    Hello, I am a pre-nursing student and something has been bugging me as I wait for my school to decide on the next class.

    I was in a car accident 5-6 years ago which caused me to have herniated discs in my lower back. This resulted in pain whenever I would stand for long periods of time and limited my lifting ability. After physical therapy and lots of time, it never got better, but it was much more manageable. Skip ahead to two year ago and I get into ANOTHER accident (I am a good driver, really, I was rear-ended both times! Just unlucky I guess...). This aggravated my injury and I am still trying to recover from the continued damage it did to my back.

    This brings me to my question: can I realistically be a nurse with a back injury? I know I can operate good body mechanics and be careful to team lift patients, but how realistic are these scenarios? Is nursing really 12 hours of standing at a stretch? I would love to do hospital work, but I am just nervous about the pain I will go through in my back and hips.

    Anyone have any experience with any of this? Any thoughts would be much appreciated as I am really worried...

    Thank you!

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  2. 17 Comments...

  3. 4
    Honestly crap, you're stuck in a difficult spot. I have several points... first. you have to disclose this on hire, they will ask and you have to tell them. Nursing will aggravate your injury and even though it's a work related aggrivation, you'll be denied workmans comp. because it was pre=existing. So a true work injury could really screw you.

    You'll generally have to be employed for a year to get FMLA which protects you from calling in from your injury, which likely will become aggravated due to your work. You'll have to fight the insurance about a "pre=existing injury".

    Consider instead postiions that protect your back, like NICU, doctors office, short stay, GI lab....outpatient things... anything that eliminates you boosting, repositioning... there really are many, but you need to be creative to start out and protect yourself as you gain more skills to get to safer positions for you.

    Many positions are out there, but please, please look up the federal laws on FMLA and workers comp. The hospital can always pull your prior records so don't ever think they won't find your status. Be upfront and be careful, but there are MANY postiions in nursing for you.
    Despareux, SnowShoeRN, kaliRN, and 1 other like this.
  4. 0
    I think it is but you may need to look for a different type of nursing job. Such as a Dr office job. Lower pay but much more realistic for people with back injuries. I started working at a Dr office last year and developed lower back pain and DJD in my Cervical spine. I can handle this job dt no patient lifting. When they are disabled the medtrans usually bring them in. The very few who come in who arent mobile and dont have help I just let my boss know I cant lift people and they have been great.
  5. 2
    I have degenerative disk disease in my L4-L5 and around my C5. I went to chiropractors for years with little to know relief from back spasms and chronic pain. I learned to live with it.

    When I was hired for my current job on a busy Med/Surg floor they put me on a very unrealistic 50# weight restriction. I did my best but after about a year I was noticing an increase in pain and spasms.

    I went to see a back specialist and they gave me the best thing in my life: Physical Therapy.

    Now I am in now way assuming disk compression to be the same as herniated disks. However I can speak from experience that PT made one of the most dramatic differences in my life. More than thousands of dollars in chiropractics (though I will say they kept me pain managed when I didn't have insurance for years).

    I went from having constant sciatica at work, to being pain free even after three back to back shifts. I will say it wasn't PT alone, but I did lose 20# and working on a few more which also helped immensely.

    I don't know your situation, but maybe some of this can be helpful. Don't give up on your goals of being a nurse, there are many things we can do to cope with our bodies

    Despareux and jxRN like this.
  6. 0
    The same only differant here. Working ER's for over 20 years. My back would hurt at the end of the 12 hour shifts, but whose wouldn't. Until January I could easily lift a 130 pound patient from the floor or wheelchair into a stretcher.
    Awoke one morning and the pain wasn't gone, I could barely lift 10 pounds. X-ray, MRI, EMG (sticking needles into anal sphincter! Aaargh!) all show lots of long term problems, ruptured discs, stenosis, congenitally small lamina, etc. The hospital couldn't get rid of me fast enough.
    I'm more limited than you now. Sit down jobs only. There are some out there, especially if you're willing to re-locate. Couldn't do more than a minute of CPR.
    My suggestion to you, do whatever you can to get experience without hurting yourself. Some jobs will be happy just to have a RN, some want experience. I wouldn't let it stop me from going into nursing. You'll find infinite possibilities.
  7. 0
    I have a friend who is in a similar situation, herniated disks, spinal stenosis, sciatica. She couldn't even stand for 5 minutes without being in extreme pain. The thing that she had said significantly helped her was exercising, losing weight, and in her situation, she had to take neurontin for nerve pain. The only side effect of that she mentioned was being tired at first, but I think it got better as she adjusted to the med.
  8. 0
    Wow, thanks for all of the advice everyone I definitely think NICU is something I want to do, though I know it is kind of a hard field to get in to. I still do physical therapy moves, though I am not actively working with a therapist. I am slowly recovering and am losing weight (which I know will help a lot) so I guess just one day at a time. I don't even know if I have been accepted yet... It was just something that was bugging me and I was hoping it wouldn't get in the way of my dream!
  9. 0
    Actually, many NICU's will hire new grads.

    I have had back surgery for a severe lumbar herniation, and these days I take it easy. I work night shifts on a child psych unit and my job is about 90% sitting and doing paperwork. I have thought about going back to Med/Surge, as my job can get boring at times and I get sick of the 8 hour shifts that I work, as opposed to twelves. But then I think about the damage that Med/Surge did to my back and decide... nahhhhhhhh....
  10. 1
    All your experiences really help. The neuroguru will give his final decision about cutting in a few weeks. Last time he said there's so much damage it's hard to find a starting point. Lost 30 pounds since January but have a long ways to go. Lost a half inch of height somewhere too, was 6'3". Managing on Tylenol, Ultram, and occasional shot of Toradol. Don't need to be pain free, just comfortable enough to sleep. Seen too often what happens once you go down the narcotic highway.
    Thanks again for the sharing, and especially MJ for starting the posts.
    SeriouslyRadN likes this.
  11. 0
    Hugs to everyone here who has to live with back injury.

    I have a lower back injury from last year when I was changing into my scrubs at work. I have two herniated discs in my lower back and one of my discs has an annular tear. For the past year I've had sciatica and the occasional back spasm but last Friday I ended up in ED again after transferring a patient and couldn't walk properly.

    I'll be seeing my GP today and getting some weight restrictions put on, I may have to go on workers comp again. I cannot wear a lead apron because it aggravates the injury too much. I have to take Diazepam and Voltaren when the pain gets too much, which I'm finding alters my moods a fair bit.

    To answer your question you can work as a nurse with a back injury but you may find that you can only work in certain areas where your not involved in heavy lifting etc. I'm still able to work in the OR but I'm finding it gets harder and harder to do so, long scrubs are killing me right now. I'm applying to do a Law degree because I don't want to risk further damage and I'm interested in getting into medico-legal practice.

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