Coping with change: Transitioning out of the bedside nurse role due to injury.
So, here I am...13 years as a Pediatric Nurse (Intensive Care Unit), and my back finally crapped out on me I've got a herniated disk in my neck, leading to right arm weakness and numbness - surgery will help, but I've been unable to get it as of now due to an untimely case of necrotizing fascititis (it's been a rough year!!!). In addition to those fun times, I also have inflammation of L4/L5 - L/5-S/1 which so far has required 2 sets of injections (next step, nerve ablation) in order to walk without excruciating pain.
So, I thought I'd share my story with others on here....so that you can learn from my mistakes and successes!
1. PAY FOR DISABILITY INSURANCE.
If your place of employment provides it, enroll right away! You may think it's another worthless deduction on your paycheck, but you never know what the future might hold. If I hadn't paid for this, I'd be in a whole lot of money pain right now. As it is, I'm working closely with the disability insurance company, getting 60% of my salary, and they have a Vocational Rehabilitation Assistant - she helped me clean up my resume, gave me tips on interviewing, and is generally a great cheerleader (she even gave me advice on what outfit to wear, because, yikes! are not professional enough for a ).
2. Your back is your job!!!!
Moving a patient by yourself might seem like a quick and easy way to do things - especially when the hallways are empty, and there's not another coworker to be found. Take the time to TRACK SOMEONE DOWN. Follow all those "annoying" skills they taught us in nursing school for proper body mechanics. I'm saying this even though the herniation was caused by falling out of bed, not at work - but realistically, the strain of 13 years on my feet and running about was what started me on the path to spine issues - the fall was likely just the straw that broke the camel's back (pun intended).
3. Mourn for the loss of what you were, but embrace and look forward to what you can become.
It was a great blow when my Spine Doc straight out said I should no longer work at the bedside. It's what I know, it's what I love...I felt like a part of me was just gone, along with my identity as a nurse. Don't ignore these feelings, talk to someone about it - it's a loss like any other, and you have every right to mourn it. HOWEVER, after accepting that the bedside part of my career is over, I embraced the fact that the nursing world is my oyster. There are so many opportunities, and new ones appearing everyday as the world of nursing, and the face of medicine is constantly changing and growing.
4. Keep your options open.
Waaay back at the beginning, when this all started, I had it so set in my mind that I was going to get an operation, my back would be fixed, and I could go right back to were I left off. I was told there was no such thing as "light duty" for a bedside clinician, and my supervisor suggested talking to HR about a non-clinical position. I ignored this advice, because I was so fixated on my plan. When it blew up in my face, I was suddenly reading a letter stating that the hospital that I poured all my heart and soul in, devoted countless hours of overtime, and went above and beyond to help maintain the unit, could no longer maintain my position, and that effective immediately I was no longer an employee. Since hindsight is a terrible beast, let me give you this tip: talk to the HR department. I lost the opportunity to do so (due to new hiring laws, I can't go back and work at this hospital until I'm 90 days nicotine free). if I hadn't been so fixated on my plan - I could have had a part time job doing something within the hospital, and not lost my seniority by moving to a different company. Remember life is fluid, and our dear friend Murphy loves throwing curve-balls.
5. Learn your employers policies regarding FMLA, short term leave, and long term leave.
If I had the chance, I would have printed each of those documents out, so that I could refer to them. Instead, I have no access to the system (as I am no longer employed), and can't refer to the policies to understand my options.
6. Out of sight, out of mind.
This one is important. Keep in touch with your supervisor. You don't have to call them everyday, but send them an email now and again, seeing how they are doing, updating them on your condition, etc. I have been doing this, and my supervisor is happily writing me letters of recommendations. I don't know if she would have been happy to do so if I had just popped up a year later, saying, "Hey, remember me? I worked my butt off for you guys...I know you haven't heard from me in a year, but can you write a recommendation for me?"
7. The internet is literally an amazing tool. USE IT.
At a total loss for what to do now? GOOGLE is your FRIEND! Literally searching, "non-clinical nurse positions" will result in a massive amount of articles, lists, resources, job descriptions, and explanations on how to go into a new/different field of nursing. If possible, see if you can find an online program to advance your career even as you convalesce. Back pain and arm numbness doesn't hinder my ability to complete assignments, so I continue to work towards my Masters in Nursing Education.
8. No limits.
In today's world, you DO have the ability to re-invent yourself as something completely different. There is no age limit at schools...if you have the resources (since you certainly have the time now that you can't work, and if you have disability insurance, you still have a decent paycheck coming in) and the desire, what have you always wanted to do? Love nursing, but always wanted to be a vet tech? Interested in retail and pharmaceuticals? As your body takes its sweet time healing, there is no reason why you can't exercise your mind.
Most of all, DON'T PANIC. The old adage, "When one door closes, another one opens" might seem like pointless drivel while you watch your carefully planned life circle down the drain - but, it's the truth. Don't fear the big bad of your future, embrace the opportunity to grow, both as a person and as a nurse.
So what have I learned? Well, first off, Nec Fasc is no fun. Ever. Being a patient, and having home care nurses coming out to change your wound vac dressing, juggling pain meds with the constant fear of becoming addicted, dealing with depression and anxiety over the future, and sometimes being in so much pain I can't even walk....it's hard to see the bright side. But, you know what? I'm alive...I'm a darn good nurse...and I have a passion for caring for others. My future in nursing is still a little hazy, as I wait patiently for the wound to heal, so I can get the back surgery I need - my mind is free to explore all the wonderful opportunities that are out there, just waiting for the right person to slip into a brand new role. I'd like to think that somewhere out there, there is position waiting just for me.
I wish you all luck and wellness in your career, and remember! Change is something to be embraced, not something to fear.
Aug 20, '16These are great tips and it's good to hear you are embracing the future with a positive attitude. I started to look for a new position after getting married and moving, but after 6 years that still hasn't happened and I have valid reasons to be concerned about leaving my great co -workers and losing my seniority in the vacation schedule.
But, as new body parts continue to ache despite my active life I am thinking more seriously about "what next?" I need to get serious about looking into a Master's in something I'm interested in.
Nicotine free? That's the first I've heard of that. Of course for healing..... you already know. Since I've been refusing the flu vaccine since 2006 I have to consider how that makes me undesirable to those looking at the quota. Update on your new adventure please.Aug 20, '16Excellent article. Good luck to you as well. As nursing instructor/professor, I am sure you will be excellent at this as well.Aug 20, '16I just recently began my career, I have 7 months in bedside nursing and fell on a wet floor and reinjured my back. I am so scared they are going to say I can't be at the bedside anymore. I have multiple herniations now impairing the nerve roots of L4-S1. I had originally hurt my back when I was 11 but as of 3 yrs. ago I had no symptoms, no problems, and my mri was very mild. I got a physical and clearance to do this job from my Dr. upon being hired. Now I'm worried they will find some way to get rid of me. with less than a year experience, how will I be able to find anyone to take me on? I paid for long term disability and my workman's comp adjuster said they would find a place for me in the hospital for limited duty when the doc releases me, but what if I never get back to full duty? I wish I had 13 years like you, but I just got started? how can I possibly see any good in this?Aug 29, '16Apparently, in certain states (one of which is PA) it is completely within a corporations right to refuse to hire smokers...though I think testing their hair for nicotine is a bit crazy. Here's an article outlining the issue: Pennsylvania Hospitals' Ban On Hiring Smokers Stirs DebateAug 29, '16Quote from efscpbnurseI won't offer you any platitudes about how everything happens for a reason...but you are right, our situations are different. I hope that you can get to the bedside, but there ARE jobs out there and available for nurses with little/no experience. My suggestion would be to take a look at the jobs that are being offered out there. Do any of them interest you? Are you capable of doing them? I'm sorry you are dealing with these issues - I hope their is some happy resolution. (Okay, one platitude) You CAN still be a fantastic nurse, and truly help people in roles other than bedside nurses. I wish you the bestI just recently began my career, I have 7 months in bedside nursing and fell on a wet floor and reinjured my back. I am so scared they are going to say I can't be at the bedside anymore. I have multiple herniations now impairing the nerve roots of L4-S1. I had originally hurt my back when I was 11 but as of 3 yrs. ago I had no symptoms, no problems, and my mri was very mild. I got a physical and clearance to do this job from my Dr. upon being hired. Now I'm worried they will find some way to get rid of me. with less than a year experience, how will I be able to find anyone to take me on? I paid for long term disability and my workman's comp adjuster said they would find a place for me in the hospital for limited duty when the doc releases me, but what if I never get back to full duty? I wish I had 13 years like you, but I just got started? how can I possibly see any good in this?
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