Nurses With POSSIBILITIES: Changing Our Perspective on Disability

  1. As a nurse with multiple physical and mental health concerns, I've spent much of the past few years focusing on what I'm no longer able to do. But thanks to an old friend, I'm learning to view my life and career in terms of their *possibilities*, rather than their limitations. Here's how you can, too.

    Nurses With POSSIBILITIES: Changing Our Perspective on Disability

    The light from the front porch lamp filtered through the sheer drapes as I sat in the dark dining room, chatting on the phone with an old friend I hadn't seen in years. "Shawn" was in the hospital with a life-threatening heart condition, scared to death, and he'd called me out of the blue because I was the only person he knew who would understand.

    As we were catching up with one another, he mentioned his work as a live-in life coach for a man with multiple medical, psychological, and developmental disabilities. His love for the job, and his client, was evident as he spoke at length about his outlook on caring for this gentleman: "I don't think of him as a guy with disabilities," he said. "I think of him as a guy with possibilities."

    Shawn went on to have open-heart surgery and is now back on the job after a short SNF stay, and we continue to talk on Facebook as well as the occasional phone call. But what he said about viewing his client in terms of the man's possibilities has stayed with me, and gradually it's changed my perspective on my own.

    After all, there may be a number of things a nurse with functional limitations can't do, but what if one were to focus instead on what s/he can do? I myself will probably never again be able to handle the stress of management or the constantly shifting priorities of the floor; but in working at my current job, I've found out that I'm really good at assessing new patients' medical and psychosocial needs, getting them settled into their surroundings, and making them feel welcome. I also enjoy doing the follow-ups a few days later to make sure they're getting the care they need.

    So, what are some of the other things we "nurses with possibilities" can do? A lot depends on our knowledge and experience, as well as our educational level. I have a friend who injured her back working on a med/surg unit, but she's found her bliss as a community-based geriatric care manager who works independently out of her own home. She has a BSN and ran a day-care center before she became a nurse, so her background in managing her own business is serving her well.

    Another acquaintance became an admissions coordinator for a large assisted living community in a neighboring city after she had a mental breakdown at her former job as a DON in a 135-bed skilled nursing facility. She went inpatient for a few days to deal with her anxiety and depression, then took a month off to figure out what to do next. As it turned out, she now has both autonomy and authority without the stress of having to oversee the residents' care after they're admitted, and she tells me she's never been happier.

    This is what my father used to call "making chicken salad out of chicken----".....well, it's a word for something chickens do a lot of. It isn't easy. Almost all of us, upon discovering that we can no longer do something we once loved, feel at first as though we've been hit by a truck. Then we go through a period of denial, and even anger at the hand we've been dealt: How could my body (or mind) betray me like this? we want to know. And even worse, we wonder who we're supposed to be now that our place in the world has disappeared.

    The answers, of course, are different for each of us. Carving out a new niche in life takes time, it takes patience, and it takes a whole lot of hard work. But if we try to see ourselves the way Shawn does his client---in light of our possibilities rather than our disabilities---we just might find out that our changed circumstances have led us to something infinitely better than what we left behind.
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 8, '18
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    About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN Guide

    Joined: Sep '02; Posts: 27,023; Likes: 45,062
    RN and blogger extraordinaire; from OR , US
    Specialty: 20 year(s) of experience in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych

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  3. by   txredheadnurse
    Atta girl Marla! This change of perspective was what I was talking about in an earlier reply to another posting of yours about becoming OK with being a different nurse now than you were years or even months ago.
  4. by   NurseDirtyBird
    I like this. I'm in the process of learning my own limitations and often fail to see what's in between the limits - possibilities! Thousands of them! Sometimes I feel my limitations are keeping me boxed in, but now I realize the box isn't all that small. Thank you for the reminder.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    Sometimes we do have to get creative, don't we? And then we have to convince ourselves that we've earned this new place, which is even more challenging IMHO.

    Just today at work, my DON was showing a new nurse around the building, whom I immediately began to fear was my replacement. Why? Because I'm still nervous, because I know that I can't do what this nurse can do, blah, blah, blah. Only this time, I didn't sit and stew and worry; when the timing was good, I piped right up and asked my DON to introduce us. She was only too happy to do so, and I found out that this nurse is studying to be a PA, and she's going to pick up some evening and night shifts until she can go to full-time in December when another nurse goes out on maternity leave.

    Sometimes, it's the little triumphs that can really make one's day. I felt SO much better for not allowing myself to give in to my own paranoia and insecurity. Another lesson learned.
  6. by   woofyrn
    What a fortuitous story to read today!
    I'm a former ICU nurse that's on SSDI and ready to get back into the profession, albeit in some other way, shape or form. Trying to see other possibilities for myself after spending 20 years in ICU -- that's all I ever pictured myself doing, and it took an enormous toll on me when I was unable to keep at it. I'm having difficulty picturing myself doing anything else, but i'm starting to realize that there are possibilities for me too. I'm still discouraged, but it was a great "pick-me-up" to see this today. Thank you so much!!!!
  7. by   VivaLasViejas
    And thank YOU for joining Allnurses! Welcome to the site---we're glad you're here. Enjoy!
  8. by   ksum62
    I am a 17y experienced LPN who would like to further my education. I have attempted a couple of community colleges without success. I feel its my experience and knowledge of the real world hinders me from being successful.
    I can pass the classes if I didn't need an 80%. I never have been an "B" student in my life.
    Please help with any suggestions.
  9. by   Mayladybug63
    Wow, great post. This is my first time reading your blog and I must tell you I love it and will be following it more. I also live in Oregon and am a nurse who has unfortunately found myself unable to work. In fact, I haven't worked in 2 1/2 years after having a back injury that wasn't that bad flare up my fibromyalgia and then a whole cascade of stuff happened and my doctor said, no working for now. I miss working so much. I had worked so hard to get my degree and becoming a nurse was going to be the way out of the life of poverty I lived most of my life. Now, here I am again. I have been homeless twice in the last 2 years. I finally applied for SSDI this last winter. I kept hoping I would get better. I hurt too much, or am too tired, or can't think enough to work. On top of that, my NP has prescribed MMJ for my pain, and of course being a nurse, that won't work. I still scan the craigslist ads hoping to find something that I can do from home, on the days and times I feel well enough, that doesn't have a strict deadline and that won't put me at risk of ever hurting someone physically by missing something or performing a task wrong. So far, I have not found that elusive job. Good for you that you have found something to do. I am open to suggestions, but so far no one has had any that will fit the list of limitations I feel I am working under. Thanks for your positivity! I'll be back for more.
  10. by   sgui
    I am a nurse researcher and my colleague and I have actually publsihed quite a bit on the topic of nurses with disabilities and how to keep them in the workforce. The first step is realizing the the disability lies in the environment not the person. that is to say that if the environment were different the person would be able to complete the task. there are many research studies to support nurses with disabilities, see studies by Guillett, and Neal , actually Neal has a new book that summarizes a lot of the studies.
  11. by   VivaLasViejas
    Quote from sgui
    I am a nurse researcher and my colleague and I have actually publsihed quite a bit on the topic of nurses with disabilities and how to keep them in the workforce. The first step is realizing the the disability lies in the environment not the person. that is to say that if the environment were different the person would be able to complete the task. there are many research studies to support nurses with disabilities, see studies by Guillett, and Neal , actually Neal has a new book that summarizes a lot of the studies.
    You've piqued my curiosity. How would that work for a nurse with a psychiatric rather than physical problem? Please post a link to these studies, if you would. Thanks!
  12. by   pyocianik
    Hi mayladybug!

    Why don't you look up ads for e-nursing? That's something you could do from home or an office.Here in France InternationalSOS offers that kind of job on a half time basis. it's absolutely not tiring physically, all you got to do is cases follow up over the phone(+some fax/Internet).
  13. by   tinyonern
    I have both physical and cognitive limitations that make it impossible to focus on any nursing job; I tried but every one had significant minimum performance requirements that I couldn't reach and the pressure was incredible, which just made symptoms worse. I'm older as well. I cried most days while fighting the insurance company for disability pay and then while fighting for SSDI. After not working for 2 1/2 yrs my life is much, much better. Many of my worse symptoms now occur rarely (as long as I keep my stress down and don't get tired, overheated, etc. ). After working as a nurse for nearly 40 yrs, I think it is time to take care of myself. Now I focus (try) on what I can do around my home that coundn't do before due to lack of time. It may take me three hours to vacuum but I can do it! And no one cares that it took me three hours...
    What about new nurses that may have gotten ill while in the program and have now graduated? The only positions I can think of is the of navigator, but those actually require experience.

    To the one that replied with being homeless twice, I am so sorry you had to go through that... with your experience have you tried working a desk job at a medical office? I wish you the best of luck.