Nurses with disabilities

Nurses Disabilities


  • Specializes in OB, M/S, ICU, Neurosciences.

I am curious as to how many of the members of this bb are nurses or nursing students with disabilities. By disabilities, I am including congenital problems, injury-related problems, or work-related injuries that have resulted in that person's inability to perform regular nursing tasks without accomodation or the inability to perform bedside nursing at all.

I am a 25 year veteran of healthcare, 20 of which have been as a RN. I sustained an initial back injury at age 18 while working my first job as a nurses' aide and now have severe thoracic and lumbo-sacral stenosis, disc herniation and degenerative disc disease/arthritis. I have been through PT and surgery is not currently an option due to the rehabilitation time and the fact that I carry all of our health benefits and cannot afford COBRA for that period of time at present. I have worked staff as well as management positions, but chose to return to staff nursing about 1-1/2 years ago in an effort to refresh my skills. Unfortunately, my back isn't able to handle it--even in an ICU setting where there is a smaller patient load. Now it's a question of finding a position that I am able to do and that I am not "overqualified" for. Believe it or not, even in this nursing shortage, it's tough to find a physically lighter position! I am fearful of revealing anything about my physical limitations to a potential employer, although a pre-employment physical exam as well as how poorly I am able to move some days would definitely show how advanced this problem is. I have contemplated applying for SSI disability, but I don't think I meet the criteria as it relates to my ability to learn a new job or to find something less physical in my current area of expertise. I have been forced to resign from 2 positions within the past year due to my back and am now having a really tough time finding something. It's humiliating as well as depressing.....

Have any of you ever faced these challenges? How did you handle them? What did you finally end up doing in order to obtain gainful employment?

Thanks for any input or advice any of you may have. :)



7 Posts

This is a topic that is also (unfortunately) near and dear to my heart as well. I have been a nurse for 23 years, although due to severe arthritis and multiple joint replacements, have not been able to do any bedside nursing for the past 13. I am currently working in nursing informatics, have been board certified since 1997, and have a proven track record in that field. Unfortunately, in the current climate of health care, nurses that fall outside the "direct patient care" definition are in many cases considered expendable and often wind up being downsized. We're seeing that at my organization with nurses who are managers, informatacists, clinical nurse specialists, and research nurses, all fields that had formerly been especially attractive to nurses with disabilities.

Many of us, as well, are finding ourselves unable to obtain jobs anywhere else in this tight job market. I personally work 3 other nurses in the same position as me, and unfortunately we're now looking to leave the nursing/healthcare field all together, if no other reason than to keep feeding our families and paying our insurance premiums.


6,011 Posts


Since you called roll I can honestly answer "PRESENT."

A nurse with an injury or disability is a persona non grata to the human resources department. They do everything they can to APPEAR TO HELP you but in truth you are sunk.

It took literally years for me to get SSI and it's going to be years more before I can feel like holding my head up. The drop in income is dramatic, the attitudes of the people who you thought you knew is even more dramatic. I still feel like the invivible man in a crowd.

Good luck, I couln't afford the COBRA either. Mine would have gone from $35 q 2 weeks to $215 q 2 weeks. Fortunately it was Blue Cross and my husbands BC allowed me to join with no waiting.

Whether or not YOU think you qualify for SSI, make the application anyway. They have a complex formula based on your age, your education, your physical abilities to do your CURRENT job. Make the application.


17 Posts

Hi this is close to my heart!

Im just starting to enter the nursing field,because it has always been in my heart. I was born with a birth defect, no left hip socket. That was in the 60's,went through 3 surgeries to correct the doctor dint catch it until I tried to walk! I was fine through high school through early 20's. Then started having my 3 children

when osteo-arthritis set in severe wearing away of the hip bones and soket. 1994 had total hip surgery. 2002 had hip revision surgery due to my body rejecting the prothesis after7 years!

I dont want to let this defeat me! Ive been told the higher education the better because of my hip. My limitations are no lifting over 50 lbs. no running or jumping. I feel really good and walk fine but with slight limp. I feel for both of you!

Any advice for me is appreciated. Just been accepted in the LPN program for this Fall but was taking pre-req classes for RN which way am I to go?

Thanks Blondnurse for starting this thread!


16 Posts

I worked as a a staff nurse for 25 years. I have an Associate Degree. In 2001, I was diagnosed with Avasular necrosis and had a hemi-resurface hip replacement. I can no longer walk eight hours or stand longer than 15 mins without pain. I have worked as a school nurse for the last 2 years. The problem is without a BSN degree, I am classified as a health aide and only make $13.75 per hour. I don't want to go back and get my BSN for several reasons. I would have to repeat all my sciences courses because it has been so long. Also, to me it is just too much work, with a full-time job, cost and having a family family. There is a yahoo group for disabled nurses and a website for disabled nurses. I can't remember the web address, but a google search will find it. I hope all of us will be able to find a job that we are capable of doing and that it pays better than mine. Looking forward to seeing other posts.


1,049 Posts

Specializes in midwifery, ophthalmics, general practice.

one of my nursing heroes- Cherry, is deaf. yet she manages brilliantly lipreading! my hat goes off to you all.



215 Posts

Specializes in OB, M/S, ICU, Neurosciences.

I'm glad I started this thread--it seems that there are probably a number of us in a similar situation insofar as our limitations are concerned.

Like many of you, I must continue to work for salary and benefits. My husband and I have three children, all of whom will be in college next year. COBRA runs well over $800 a month, which will be prohibitive if it continues. Hubby is in a non-benefitted position, although it pays well--but he is also in school right now finishing up his degree so he will hopefully have some type of job security and tenure if he can land a position teaching full-time. I have often thought about going back to the NICU, which is where I worked for a couple of years before heading into the adult side--perhaps it wouldn't be as physically demanding as the adult clinical settings. I don't seem to have much luck with finding management positions right now, and everyone wants a case manager or research nurse with experience. It's also tougher finding a job when you are unemployed. And a BSN seems almost worthless these days--it's as though everyone wants a master's prepared person for their mgmt. positions. I, like CompuNurse and others, am ultimately moving toward getting out of healthcare all together and using my skills in a different way.

I would have to agree with the statement that P_RN made about HR being less than helpful--they are quick to want to rid themselves of dealing with someone who requires accomodation. I don't know if that is in direct violation of the ADA or not, but it might be interesting to find out!

Well, back to the seemingly perpetual job hunt......:rolleyes:


414 Posts

I am glad that you started this thread. I am glad that I am not here by myself. I have disabilities r/t failed back syndrome r/t 2 unsuccessful back surgeries. After each surgery, I got worse. At this point I spend 20 of 24 hours in bed. I cannot walk further than 10 ft, sit longer than 20 min, or stand longer than 3 minutes without severe pain. I am on strong narcotics around the clock and all of this prevents me from being able to work. I have applied for my disability, but am fighting for it with a lawyer. My husband is also disabled r/t diabetes, amputation and breathing problems. I get so discouraged with them telling me that they understand that I am disabled but with my young age (46) and my educaation, I should be able to find something. Yes I would love to be able to work, I would love to be able to sit, stand and walk further than I can, but I cannot. I get so depressed about this.


298 Posts

Specializes in surgical, neuro, education.

I am dealing with the side effects of having hip replacement. It has been only 2 1/2 months--the employee health department in my hospital is giving me hard time about still being out of work?!!! I was working 12 hours shifts prior to my replacement--the last shift I worked before I went out on disability to have the surgery, I had one break (15 min) from 6:45am until 8pm.

There is no way my body can continue to take this work. I miss working with my patients--but I want to be able to walk when I am in my 60's (even my 50's).

I go back to orthopod on Monday. He was talking about sending me back to work after this appt. I am still using a crutch to walk. Should be fun!!!!

renerian, BSN, RN

5,693 Posts

Specializes in MS Home Health.

I still work but I am hearing impaired. Wear aides but sometimes I cannot hear the phone and need a hearing impaired phone which no one likes to get........



25 Posts

I was injured at work 15 years ago leaving me with chronic back pain. I worked at the hospital 25 years but HR slowly made life so horrible for me that they forced me out. It is much easier to get rid of an employee than to try to accomadate a long term employee with good benefits including 5 weeks annual leave. I could write a book about HR techniques to get rid of disabled persons.

I currently have a management position at a LTC. Any nurse at my LTC is not required to lift, can find opporturnitie to sit or stretch. LTC is a much better avenue for nurses with disabilities.

At present, I have completed chemo for ovarian cancer. The LTC is very supportive and willingly gives me time off for MD visits, etc.

Interesting thread indeed.

Jay-Jay, RN

633 Posts

One of the reasons I prefer home care nursing is that I have a serious hearing impairment. It especially causes problems on the phone. My latest hearing aids are great on the phone, BUT the nursing stations in hospitals tend to put their phones beside computer monitors, which cause +++ interference with the hearing aid's telephone coil. I have a moderately severe loss in the one ear, and a severe loss (80-90% in the midrange) in the other.

I was discriminated against by a teacher in nursing college, but I haven't had a problem since, except with the odd private duty patient. And I do a GREAT job with patients who can't talk, because I'm very good at interpreting body language and other visual cues.

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