Less than 2 years as nurse and back probs force change

  1. I hope this does not sound too much like a pity party. I feel pretty down, so I fear it might.

    I have been a nurse for one and a half years. I worked one year at a hospital that was so far away I had to stay at a hotel for work, and moved afterwards to an ICU closer to home. I had truly found what made me happy as a nurse.
    The work was hard. There was pain all around and patients with so many needs, I could never fill them all, but it was fulfilling. I finally felt like I had come to where I was meant to be....a place where I can help. A place my smile and cheerfulness, along with nursing care might make a difference in people's lives. I was happy.

    Then it happened...

    It didn't happen AT work, but the first day of vacation. My back began to hurt more than I had ever experienced. My right leg began burning and I was unable to walk without a pronounced limp and assistance.

    I returned to work after the painful vacation (spent mostly in the hotel room watching TV, due to pain), and tried to work for a total of 6 days. Then I had to give in and call the doctor. I had an MRI and was written out of work indefinitely.

    I have been in treatment for three months now, and am only moderately better. I have Degenerative Disc Disease (L-5/S-1) and sciatic nerve radiating pain. I have had three steroid injections and am in my second round of physical therapy.
    The doctors have said I need to stop working at the bedside because of the added stress and strain that works puts on my back. If I am going to get relief, and maintain it for any length of time, I need to find work that is not at the bedside.

    I truly don't mean to complain, but I don't even have two years in as a nurse yet and moving from the bedside to outpatient care or any other nursing job is not easy with as little time as I have in nursing. Plus, I have only been at my most recent employer for 6 months and am already in need of something else. They have told me they have nothing for me. Too small a hospital to have nurses who cannot do bedside care, no matter what official "role" they are employed in.

    I am searching and have applied at numerous outpatient offices, with no positive results...all say I need office experience. That sounds crazy! I am in my second career, (first was banking--is that not enough "office" experience) and can certainly maintain records and perform well with computers. I have also been on an Intensive Care Unit, I am more than capable of taking vital signs and updating records for doctors prior to them seeing a patient. What experience am I lacking?

    Beside that frustration though. My heart is broken. I keep recalling my time on the ICU and the times I sang to a sedated patient while bathing her, or spoke uplifting words as I changed a dressing. The memories of stories I listened to, shared by the patient moving to hospice care that afternoon, and the time I held a patients' hand and silently cried as I witnessed his passing as a 'No Code" without family. My heart is that of a bedside nurse and I cannot imagine being a nurse without the opportunity to give and receive the love that is shared when we (as patients) are at our worst and the nurse (me) is there to try to relieve pain and assure dignity and healing.

    I am honestly depressed. I know I must find a job that does not require leaning over a bed, or pulling up patients, or such, and I know I am capable, but not only does my heart break over the loss of the role that had finally fulfilled me, but also the difficulty of finding a job with such little nursing time under my belt.

    What do I do? How can I find peace in this move? How can I actually move anyway?

    Please forgive me.
  2. Visit hopeinchrist03 profile page

    About hopeinchrist03, BSN

    Joined: Apr '09; Posts: 7; Likes: 5
    Staff Nurse; from US
    Specialty: 5 year(s) of experience in Critical Care & Ambulatory Primary Care


  3. by   Indy
    I don't know. My heart hurts for you. I hope you find some relief from your pain first.
  4. by   Nurse ABC
    First of all I'm very sorry! I kind of know how you feel. I've been back to floor nursing only four months and already having severe pain in my joints. I have arthritis and degenerative disc disease in my back and now the dr is running more tests because I'm now having problems with my feet, knees, and hips and I am not old enough for this stuff! I used to be very active biking, hiking, and swimming and now I have no energy and am in pain all the time. It's very depressing. I have been researching my options in case this job won't work out. Have you considered home health or hospice? There's a lot less time on your feet there and once there long enough you can usually get more an office type of job from what I hear. There's also case management, discharge planning, insurance companies, education, school nursing, clinic nursing, IT, etc. Don't give up yet. You have almost two years experience which is a wonderful stepping stone! Keep applying and in the mean time maybe try one of the temp agencies for non bedside jobs, substitute school nursing, flu shot clinics, or maybe even consider furthering your education. Good luck!
  5. by   hopeinchrist03
    Thank you Indy and Nurse ABC. Just for clarification, I am enrolled in a RN-BSN program which I will likely not finish until Spring of 2014 just because I need to work and go to school at the same time and that is alot of stress. I would increase my course-load, but I don't know if or when I might get a job so I feel uncertain about that jump.

    I have applied for Hospice (and interviewed too), but they didn't feel comfortable with a prior back injury and determined I would not be able to adequately perform work duties. It didn't matter what I said or what documentation I provided, they decided without requesting anything.
    I have applied at offices, only to be denied because I don't have office experience.
    I did just apply at a long term care facility, which sounded positive when I brought my materials in (in person). That is kind of hopeful and I have a phone interview this afternoon for a type of HH job focused purely on the elderly population.

    I just have to hang in there, I guess. And I have to fight the "monsters" in my head that tell me it is impossible. Smiles

    Thank you
  6. by   KountryPrincess
    How about home care? Think about it a little and see if it might be for you. A little more acute care experience would be preferable, but I am seeing that new grads are getting jobs in some agencies, and you are more experienced than that. I have chronic back pain too from a disc out at T6, and although it is not easy, I am able to work in home care three days a week. The reason it works for me is that it allows me to change position frequently......drive for a while, stand for a while, sit down for a while in the pts home, etc. Also at my agency, if I am really hurting I will go home after I have seen my pts and chart lying down. You will find something, keep your chin up!
  7. by   newnurse1971
    I feel for you,
    I had been working for 14 months and was diagnosed with DDD. After trying steriods, therapy I had a diskectomy. Excellent results. The morning after I came home I had a seizure and was taken to ER. While the nurse was supposed to be transfering me from a gurney to a wheelchair (She assumed a patient in the postictal phase was ok to transfer by themselves and was discussing her break plans with someone outside the room) I fell to the floor and had to have another diskectomy as my disc was damaged more than before thew1st surgery. Now I'm awaiting spinal fusion because there was too much damage to my disc. I've worked in any job I could find all my life to pay the bills and had finally found something I love. And now because of someone that doesn't take pride in what they do, I have no idea when or if I'll ever get to do the job I love.
  8. by   hopeinchrist03
    Oh my!
    I am so sorry.
    I have been reminded many times that one great thing about nursing is that there are so many different things we can do. Some jobs can be done at home on the phone and computer, others can be done in offices or even in hospitals in a RN case manager position. I hurt for you too because you have only been working as a nurse for 14 months. That is what makes the situations related to work so difficult for both of us...the lack of time in career.
    I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit, however and I believe in the power of hope in healing.
    Please keep positive and believe in yourself. You have obviously always fought for your success and you will win again.

    Bless you
  9. by   hopeinchrist03
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I interviewed two weeks ago with a home health agency and was just about to be offered a job when the reality that they were seeking only part time employees became real. I need to work full time with benefits, partly because I need medical care to maintain my healing and as many middle aged women, have long term medications. It seems with the home health agencies in our area, that part-time is the norm.
    It is sad.
    I will keep trying though!
    I cannot give up.
    Thank you for your support.
  10. by   ixchel
    Oh, love I'm totally feeling your pain right now-- literally. I have anterolisthesis of L5 over S1, and it is symptomatic. The horrible difference between us though is that I'm in my first semester of a BSN program. I've had two weeks to mull this over, and I'm still a bit unsure of what's going to happen in my world. I want to be an NP, so ultimately I'll be somewhat okay, but in the meantime, in 3 semesters I'd like to be able to work. It's going to be a long, hard battle when I graduate. I may actually start sending out resumes before my last semester so I can get a jump-start on that painful search for a job that isn't at the bedside. What's worse is I live in a pretty rural area, so options are already limited.

    Chin up, love. I'm sure you'll have plenty of discouraging moments, but this will work out. Nursing is so incredibly diverse, and if you think outside the box, you may find the path of your dreams. P.S. I'm sorry about your vacation. I think I'd cry the whole time
  11. by   lawandaluxnurse
    I feel for all of you. I am s/p fusion 5 years but have recurring radiculopathy and always have some pain. There are times I cannot move when the nerve is flaring up and other times I am fine. I was working in an OR, that had to go too physical. I gave home health a try. Home health is ok but it is also physical as you have to do dressing changes etc from many strange angles. I would picture hospice less physical. I find myself back on a med-surg unit as I got so emotionally burned out in homecare, but it is too physical. I just had a round of ESIS and PT and 1 month later I am back in the same boat. My employer is not exactly happy with me and makes me feel like I am commiting some kind of crime or something. I get so frustrated I don't know what to do sometimes. I apply for jobs and then look like a job hopper because I was trying to take care of my back and a parent with Alzheimers at the same time. I never claimed workmans comp. though I probably should have. I don't have any answers except there has to be a place in nursing for persons with disabilities. Why is the very work we do and the very people we do it for the ones who make it so impossible for us to it or something like that. Thank goodness for this sight at least we can help eachother somehow.
  12. by   monkeybug
    What about NICU or well baby nursery? Incredibly rewarding, and tiny patients.
  13. by   wheeliesurfer
    OP, I would ask your ortho/neuro (whichever you see) if they think the injury is a workers comp elig injury. Just because it didn't "happen" (I assume you are talking about the onset of the pain) at work does not mean that your disk injury is not a result of repeated heavy lifting from things such as turning, mowing patients up in bed, assisting in transfers, etc. If you are able to get WC you should have more job safety/security where you are now since they shouldn't be able to get rid of you based on your injury/disability alone. Also, I believe that they would be required to provide you with reasonable accommodation, so maybe they would have to find you that desk job if that is what you truly need right now, otherwise maybe they put you on "light duty" with restrictions on how much you are able to lift (maybe have two CNA's do patient repositioning?), a required break every ____ so that you can sit/lay down to relieve pain or pressure on the disc, etc.

    I'm sure I will think of more, but I think the big thing here is that currently you are a person with a disability (even if hopefully temporarily) and they are required by FEDERAL LAW to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with a disability, just like they would (hopefully?) try and accommodate a nurse who had restrictions related to pregnancy.

    Good luck to you. I see no reason why the hospital you are at cant find SOMETHING for you to do, even if it is helping with DC planning, chart reviews, helping orient new hires..... (If they truly look hard enough they will find a place!). Also, consider seeing an attorney who might be able to go to bat for you if your current employer is unwilling to waiver and insists on breaking the law.