Unfortunate ICU RN in need of less physically demanding job

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    ]I have been working in the ICU since I was a new grad a little less than 2 years ago. I love it SO much, but I know that I physically cannot continue. I am on worker's comp right now for a back injury while pulling up a patient only a few weeks after a neck injury! Additionally, I have a rheumatologist trying to diagnose a possible autoimmune disease that has left me fatigued, lightheaded, with joint pain and numbness.

    I am considering applying to the PACU. Now, I am in no way saying PACU nurses have an "easy" job. I'm just looking for less turning every 2 hrs, cleaning incontinent patients up, getting OOB to chair, running from room to room, etc.

    I thought PACU would be a good transition. Any input or thoughts? Other units??


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  3. 12 Comments...

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    PACU is similar to the ICU. While there is not necessarily turning every two hours....The PACU is literally a race against a time clock that is generally set at 45 minutes. We reposition patients, boost them up, help them get up, etc. PACU RNs also spend a lot of time on their feet. I spend more time on my feet in PACU and more time walking than I ever did working in the unit. Also, some PACUs require that RNs transport patients to their rooms...which includes transfers.

    Just some things to think about.
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    Thanks so much for the response, meandragonbrett. Hmm that is really interesting to hear. It sounds more physical that I had thought. I am actually fine being on my feet. But, it's lifting and pulling that aren't my strengths. And transfers aren't the easiest either. Also, the race against the clock, would you consider that more stressful than having 2 sick ICU patients all day long?...Are there any other units you might suggest?
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    Quote from veeveeRN
    Thanks so much for the response, meandragonbrett. Hmm that is really interesting to hear. It sounds more physical that I had thought. I am actually fine being on my feet. But, it's lifting and pulling that aren't my strengths. And transfers aren't the easiest either. Also, the race against the clock, would you consider that more stressful than having 2 sick ICU patients all day long?...Are there any other units you might suggest?
    I wouldn't call it more stressful....but it can be just as stressful as the day to day grind of the 12 hour ICU gig. ABCs, Hemodynamics, Pain, hypotension, transfusing blood products, intubating, extubating, etc. It REALLY is PACU dependent though. No two PACUs are the same. I only work in PACUs where it's still true critical care but there are lots and lots of PACUs out there that don't function that way as well. You just need to know what you're getting into before accepting a job or asking for a transfer. maybe you should talk to your PACU management team and see if they have needs for people to help them out?
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    Ah ha, that makes much more sense. That's definitely something I would look into and inquire about prior to beginning a job. Thank you for the heads up on that.
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    I was in your shoes about twenty years ago. People always think about adult ICU as a challenge in terms of skills, time management and a deep understanding of your science and how that applies to nursing....but they forget how physically challenging it can be until they suffer an injury or health problems (in your case) or they get old (in my case).I knew I physically could no longer work in MICU full time when the pain in my knee made it difficult to transport large patients off unit or to do lifts. I don't care if you do lift the right way...when you get older things just start to break down if you like it or not. Thankfully for me, the Childrens' hospitals PICU was experiencing high acuity and census and they asked if any adult ICU nurses would consider getting cross trained and picking up extra shifts. I ended up LOVING the PICU and found it much less physically demanding and more challenging and rewarding than adult ICU. I was able to stay in critical care nursing another seventeen years. I also added NICU to my repertoire the next year and cut my hours down to one day a week in the MICU and eventually I retired from taking care of adults on the advice of my doctor. As time went on and my knee got worse, I knew it was time to hang up the nursing cap and I fully retired as I realized that my nursing care would start to suffer. After a year of retirement (and knee replacement surgery) I am active in nursing again as a substitute assistant school nurse working with special needs children who require skilled nursing care.There IS a place in nursing for you that won't kill your body. PICU is the most challenging and rewarding place that I ever worked and if I had to do it all over again, I would have done that from the start. You take care of everything and anything except premies and it keeps you on your toes every single day. There I was, a sixty year old grandma, at the hospital library reading and learning about an assignment I was going to have the next day...and loving every minute of it. NICU was the least physically demanding job I had as they can be flipped with a pancake spatula..but its also very highly specialized. It was a nice change of pace, but I liked the variety of the PICU. School nursing (if you are in a school that has a union) has a great schedule and the pay isn't bad considering you have summers off. Its not as easy as people think it is, as the school nurse is often times the only health care provider that our students see on a regular basis (I'm in an inner city school).I'm not overly religious, but I firmly believe that when God closes a door He (or She or It) opens a window and during these transitions in life something wonderful can happen.Best to you,Mrs H.
    4boysmama and CrufflerJJ like this.
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    Wow thank you, Mrs. H for taking the time to write that response. Yes, you're completely right that the adult ICU is so much more physically demanding than people think. Especially at my hospital that does not staff CNAs or PCTs in the unit and we do not have a lift team. It's great to hear you had such a great time in the PICU. I was considering pediatrics, but I am having the hardest time finding hospitals willing to take RNs without peds experience. They seem to even prefer new grads to an experienced adult RN. The other thing, as I mentioned, some of my health issues cause me to have bad reactions to stress. Although I am not diagnosed right now, the Dr.s are telling me that working in less stressful environment will help keep my flare ups and symptoms down. So I'm not sure if the NICU or PICU would be a good idea even though the physical part is better. This is why I was thinking about PACU since I already have my ICU experience to fall back on. School nursing sounds interesting too, but as a newer nurse (just 2 years experience) and no peds experience, I don't think I'm ready to work without peers and resources around me. It is encouraging to hear that you were able to overcome your obstacles and continue nursing. I hope I will be able to do the same. Thanks again for your post. Please let me know if you have any other ideas for me to consider.

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    Look into your local virtual ICU/EICU. You may have to get your CCRN and prove yourself as a level 5 or advanced level RN, but it's no patient care. I know that some people might get stressed watching 20+ patients, but it's not physical! Good luck.
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    Thanks for the input! Oh man, that sounds amazing on my back, but I'm no where near level 5...barley at 2 year mark of being a nurse :]

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    If you don't want too much stress, then PICU and NICU are not going to be a good fit. I think all areas of nursing are stressful in their own way. When I was a PICU nurse, a young RN who oriented to the unit just wasn't cut out for the fast pace which is just the nature of the beast. Not that he was a bad nurse, but it just wasn't a good fit. At the end of orientation, we decided a better fit for him would be a unit where the patients were more predictable and he transferred to short term surgery where they did a great many T&A operations and he was very happy there. Now mind you, a bleeding T&A isn't for the faint of heart, but it is much more predictable then the PICU where the bleeder is likely to end up if things don't go well. When my grandson had his tonsils out a few years back, he never went to the hospital. He went to a surgery center and his admitting nurse had worked with me in MICU 20 years prior and loved the change of pace....maybe that would be a good fit for you. If you can hang in there to say you worked for one year in critical care, this may help your resume more than five months. I've seen ads for home care that say "one year critical care experience required". If you can hang in there that long and bite the bullet, do it. If not, don't risk your health and do what you have to do. Best to you, Mrs H.

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