Newish RN with new back injury - help!

  1. I'm a relatively 'new' RN (~2 years experience) with a back injury (herniated disc) I acquired from an on the job injury. I'm being treated for it through work and have no complaints about that - I have gotten great care, albeit extremely slow.

    But I'm terrified to go back to work as the time approaches. I'm worried about re-injuring myself or injuring myself worse and being completely unable to work or needing surgery or worse. My doctor told me I should really consider thinking about my career path and get out of nursing.

    I'm looking for alternate things I can do with my nursing degree (all my experience is in critical care; I also have a generalist MSN that I did as it was the quickest way to become an RN) - things that are alternatives to bedside nursing that are not so hard on the body.

    I know that 2 years isn't that much experience in the whole grand scheme of things, but I figure it might help to get my foot in the door somewhere.

    Any suggestions/leads/ideas? thanks
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    About CranberryMuffin

    Joined: Jan '09; Posts: 139; Likes: 220
    Patient Safety RN
    Specialty: Critical Care, Patient Safety


  3. by   klone
    I'm sorry. I too herniated a disc about a year and a half ago, and that was a factor that played into my decision to leave bedside nursing (I was an L&D nurse). I now work in perinatal research. Be well!
  4. by   A&OxNone
    Sorry to hear about your injury. After almost a year into nursing, I had a terrible shoulder injury that required surgery, and ended up being a torn rotator cuff. (I was 24 at the time, way too young for that injury!) I was in a sling for about 5 weeks, and still in so much pain when it was time for me to start back to work. Anyways, I felt a lot like you do... I was so scared to go to work (in the ER), and my orthopod told me if I injured it again while it was healing, I would never work as a nurse again. I can't explain the tears and torture it was thinking about it, but it seems you may have a good idea already.

    Bottom line, I did some real soul searching and decided I needed to change jobs, even if it was something I didn't love, just so I would still have the ability to do something I loved in the future. I now work in peds and i LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It was the best decision I ever made.

    I'm telling you my story because I want you to know that even if you switch jobs or postpone going back, or whatever you need to do, dont feel like it is a failure or worry about what others will think. You have to do what is best for you and your future. Also, who knows, you may actually end up loving what you do. Good luck to you, hope it works out.
  5. by   joanna73
    You could think about case management, or somewhere like OR/ PACU. You would need to take the OR course, but the workload is much lighter than any of the other floors.
  6. by   Double-Helix
    Maybe transfer to a NICU or PICU since you already have critical care experience. Patients tend to be a little smaller in those firleds- so less lifting.
  7. by   not.done.yet
    I was going to suggest NICU as well.
  8. by   roser13
    Quote from joanna73
    You could think about case management, or somewhere like OR/ PACU. You would need to take the OR course, but the workload is much lighter than any of the other floors.
    I would advise against the OR. At my facility, all of the nurses with injuries/surgeries eventually transfer to the pre/post op area. There is a tremendous amount of lifting/holding various body parts, in addition to transferring patients from cart to OR table & back. Holding the arm or leg of a 300 or 400 pound person while someone scrubs it it not an easy task.
  9. by   joanna73
    It might depend on what specifically you are doing in the OR though. I had a rotation in Cysto a while back. We had minimal lifting in that department. The hours were good, too. 7-330 and 8-430 with an hour for lunch.
  10. by   Ruby Vee
    Six years ago, I herniated a disk at work. I was off for six months. When it was time to go back to work I, too had worries about it. I used to wake up in the middle of the night, scared to death to go back to the ICU. I was afraid I would re-injure myself, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up anymore, I was afraid I wouldn't love it as I used to.

    I went back to work, and although the first two weeks were rough, I was back into the swing of things -- and loving it again -- in just a few weeks. I've never regretted going back to the ICU.
  11. by   nurseprnRN
    Had surgery for two-level herniation many moons ago. Did a lot of excellent PT and when she turned me loose she told me to keep it up, or else. I did.

    At first my goal was to have five lousy minutes pain-free. Then, when I noticed I was getting five-minute periods, I looked for tens. Then fifteens. Eventually I had hour-long periods pain-free; maybe not every day, but I did have them, and then they became more frequent. One of the best things my PT told me was not to panic if I had recurrence of a higher pain level from time to time, but just to keep doing the exercises and walk, walk, walk as much as I could (I got up to 3 miles a day listening to books on tape for distraction, and that was terrific). The other was to really understand the difference between dangerous pain and nondangerous pain, and not to fear the nondangerous pain merely because it was painful, but to keep on going.

    Kept looking for longer and longer pain-free times -- a morning, a day, two days... and they did come. They got more consistent. Then I threw caution to the wind and said, My goal is to forget I ever had any back injury at all! And I laughed to myself, because I knew that was never gonna happen-- who could forget all this misery?

    But you know what? It did happen. And I went gradually back to doing everything I had been doing adaptively-- carrying the laundry downstairs instead of kicking the basket down, then kneeling to fill it up, then kicking it down the cellar stairs; bending over to put the pans away instead of leaving them out on the counter; bending over to make the bed rather than kneeling at all four corners-- it all came back. Now I go months and sometimes years forgetting that 10" zipper in my LS.

    Do what you want for work. Make sure you don't fear nondangerous pain, and do what you want. Your back will recover. So will the rest of you.
  12. by   sauconyrunner
    I have never had a serious back injury thank goodness, but...I have had 3 months off for a crushed hand.
    Now I admit, it isn't like a back, but there was a great deal of concern on the part of myself, and my surgeon about my hands abilities to function again. Hands are so important to our job.

    Thankfully, thankfully, I had an excellent surgeon. My hand is corrected. I was also terrified to go back to work. My hand took about a year to fully recover and I had to do a lot of adaptive things for a while, including having to do some jobs which I really disliked (We have very different roles each day where I work). When I first came back to work, I could not even always get the caps off the saline pre-flushes. It was really frightening. In the end, I did get better. I think you can get better, and come back to work, stronger and safer.

    You need to decide if you want to continue in critical care, or move into a different area. I think either would be fine. I do encourage you not to let fear guide your choice.
  13. by   kakamegamama
    Teaching, case management, legal reviews, research.....just some ideas. Take care-a lower back injury is why I left the bedside and am now a FNP student. I wish you the best & let yourself take the time to heal!
    Last edit by kakamegamama on Aug 12, '12 : Reason: misspelled word
  14. by   MBrickle
    I herniated my L5 (badly!!!) and am in pedi home health. I really would love to be a CRNA one day, but am also entertaining the idea of being an FNP as I'm not sure there is a way for me to gain NICU experience around here (Northeast) without going through med/surg or other adult specialties...and honestly, that really isn't an option for me. I am one year out from my injury...I go to the gym 5x/week, I lift weights, etc. but I still "know" I have an injury. I was in such a tremendous amount of pain for such a long time and my mobility, quality of life and happiness was crap. It truly saddens me to know that I may never achieve my dream, and may never be happy in nursing without the acute and technical nature of it I am looking for, but at the end of the day, this is my life, and my quality of life is paramount. Especially because I am only 29 and have not yet had children. I DO NOT want a life of one spinal fusion after another.

    Look into alternatives, they are limitless in nursing, or head to PA/NP school. For me, the gamble isn't worth it. It's a road I don't want to go down again. No matter what.