Unable to find job due to restrictions - Advice please

  1. This is my first post here - I am really hoping someone can give me some advice.

    I am 27 and have been a nurse for 4 years. I hurt my back lifting a patient almost three years ago and have since been diagnosed with lumbar DDD with annular tears at L4-5 and L5-S1. I tried a ton of treatments and eventually ended up having an IDET procedure done...by one of the doctors I was working with (worked at a pain clinic at that point). The surgery was unsuccessful and I was laid off after the three months of FMLA since they felt I was a liability to the company. 6 months after the back surgery I had a Functional Capacity Evaluation done to determine what level of functioning I could return to. They gave me restrictions which are most likely permanent. Because of these restrictions (primarily against lifting over 50 lbs, bending, pushing, pulling) it seems that no one wants to hire me due to safety concerns.

    I am also currently on chronic opioid therapy for pain management in addition to Gabapentin, relafen and cymbalta. I have been on it for almost 2 years and have no cognitive impairment. I have been applying and interviewing since last September and only had one job offer (which was withdrawn after I went to the pre-employment physical).

    I don't know what to do anymore. I am considering going back to school to get my masters degree but I am wondering if I will encounter the same discrimination there as well (due to being unable to lift or bend in the event of an emergency as well as due to the medications). I am working with DVR services and they are recommending that I avoid any career paths that would involve direct patient contact due to safety issues (which would eliminate nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist as well as many others). Has anyone else been in this situation? What would you advise?
  2. Visit RNinWI profile page

    About RNinWI

    Joined: Aug '09; Posts: 10; Likes: 1
    Specialty: 3 year(s) of experience in Ortho, Neuro, ASC


  3. by   bluegeegoo2
    I am truly sorry to hear about your situation. It has to be really tough to deal with not only the physical/mental aspects of your limits, but to be turned away at every potential job as well? I can't imagine how hard it's been. Have you looked into being a phone nurse? I don't know where you live, but we have a few MD's here that only employ RN's as their after-hours/weekend triage nurses who work at CPU's and have no direct pt contact. I think the VA has the same thing, as I was looking at them for a job at one point, but they wanted RN's only as well. With a Masters, you may be able to get into a management position that doesn't include direct pt care. I would talk to an advisor at your local college/university and explain your situation at see what they have to say. I truly hope you find something that you can do that you'll find fulfilling. The best of luck to you.
  4. by   Heogog53
    I agree about the telephone nursing triage. You can also try chart reviewing. There are also nurse related educational certificates such as clinical legal nurse.
    If you get a Master's, are there any areas offered within a master's studies that interest you that don't involve hands on? Infection control, education, pain management, and the like. I also have a bad back and have been looking for areas in nursing which avoid patient contact and will allow your previous education to help you along.
    There is epidemiology or Masters in Public health, or _____ick____health care admin, and if yo have an aptitude for computers, nursing informatics.

    As you can see, I've been looking and looking. I don't want to become "disabled", but if that's what it comes down to, I may go on disability long enough to go to school and become another kind of nurse.

    I'd suggest nursing research, but that depends on what particular role and level the job is.

    Good luck to you.
  5. by   CNA2day
    I unfortunately can relate to your story.
    I did get hired on as a CNA but when they realized I had a back problem (herniated disk l5-s1 and so far l4-l5 is only bludging) they tried to say they could not hire me!
    I fought it and I told them I was confident in my ability to do the job correctly and efficiently without harm to myself. (plus I had already quit my other job and started training at this job!!!!)
    They thought I was a liability.
    They told me they should have never hired me as they were not supposta hire anyone with a back problem.
    I argued with them about it...
    I was till going to PT at the time and they told me I had to get released from PT and I had to get a letter from the PT stating that I was able to do the job competently. My only saving grace was that the PT that I went to was the director of the PT department so he was able to pull the strings he had to so I could have the job!

    I have had the job for 4 months. I love it and actually it has made my back BETTER. The surgeon told me that the best thing I could do for my back is WALK WALK WALK and one lady wore a step counter and that night we walked 14 miles on our shift!)
    It has made a world of differnce. I use proper body mechanics and always make sure i do not over do it and if i need help i get it! Because if I hurt myself I am going to feel the same way I did before and I never want to feel that bad again.. and in the end no one else is going to help me if I put myself back into that position!

    He wrote me a letter of recommendation and released me stating that i was released but if I needed to come back just to call him and he would make an appt. lol

    He also told me I better not get hurt because his but was on the line if I did!

    I forgot to add that I hope that after I get my RN it does not cause an issue for me getting a job!!
    Last edit by CNA2day on Dec 22, '09 : Reason: had to add to it
  6. by   kids
    Quote from RNinWI
    They gave me restrictions which are most likely permanent. Because of these restrictions (primarily against lifting over 50 lbs, bending, pushing, pulling) it seems that no one wants to hire me due to safety concerns.

    I am also currently on chronic opioid therapy for pain management in addition to Gabapentin, relafen and cymbalta. I have been on it for almost 2 years and have no cognitive impairment. I have been applying and interviewing since last September and only had one job offer (which was withdrawn after I went to the pre-employment physical).
    Your back problems can be a factor but at this point in time nurses with no limitations and tons of experience can't find jobs.

    If your PCE was done 6 months post op that is too long ago, ask for another one. Even better, how long since you had any PT? Ask for a PT eval and get treatment for deconditioning R/T failed low back. If possible do the PT with a facility that can also do the PCE at the end of the program. You'd be surprised at the difference a couple years and some conditioning can make from 6 months post op.

    Only applying for jobs that meet your restrictions, a doc doing the pre-employment physical should have the job description in front of them, only applying for positions that meet your restrictions avoids them saying you're not fit for work based on restrictions.

    If the application or any of the other 'tools' you're given ask if you've had a back injury, don't lie and do finish the application. Don't assume they won't hire you.

    On the application do not list the gap in employment as being due to surgery, etc. You took this time off to care for a family member, to devote time to your family, use your imagination.

    Do NOT list your pain doc as your primary care physician.

    Do NOT disclose your meds except at the time of the UA. For that carry the meds with you but don't off them up, other than to tell the person administering the test that you are "on a prescription med that may show up, what the process is for providing proof of prescription?".

    Once you do finally get your foot in the door do not ever, EVER, even once make a move on the job that is outside your restrictions. Be very, very careful of your body, breaking restrictions even a little can void any workers comp claim. Once you get back working you will find work arounds for things that are outside your restrictions.

    I have a very obvious physical disability due to my back, the only time it's not apparent is if I'm sitting down. I've managed to work steadily for the last 16 years (except for time off for surgery & recovery) doing what I posted above. I'm in a wheel chair 50% of the time (a deterioration since I took the job 3 years ago),. I'm working on my BSN because I'm headed for 50 and am burning out, it's time to explore some new options.
    Last edit by kids on Dec 22, '09
  7. by   caliotter3
    I would advise you to get a master's degree if you can find a way to fund it, and go into teaching. Plenty of need for another nursing instructor.
  8. by   deehaverrn
    I have back issues which led to me losing my job, since i am unable to sit or stand without pain, at least for any good amount of time (say more than an hour total), I can't work..although of course the workers comp ins. agendy and my former employer will keep disputing that..although my employer a large medical center terminated me and isn't offering me any job they have..they say that i could be employed in many areas, including many phone jobs..as well as non nursing ones..this is complicated by the fact that i actually have always..always disliked talking on the telephone...but somehow that makes no difference..although for them neither do my pain complaints which they describe as purely subjective despite my ample evidence of spinal abnormalities on MRI as well as a positive discogram. Unlike you , i do feel like my pain meds affect my cognition, not even trusting myself to drive if I need to take my narcotics..and the neurontin makes me constantly feel exhausted (i tried not taking it, and felt more awake..but kept having terrible electic shock like pain in my legs..so i restarted it). Anyway, more education never hurts...so if you are able to then get your masters (can you do that while on disability in your state..cuz in minne you can't i don't think). doing nursing education might be really good for you, i think it would be good to have someone who has actually worked as a nurse teaching new ones instead of people who have only a book education which is often the case. Good luck.
  9. by   RNinWI
    Hi Deehaverrn and others,

    Thanks to all of you for your suggestions and empathy. Still in pretty much the same situation - continued pain although I had to drop my medical insurance on Dec 1 when the cobra subsidies ended.., and I am still unemployed and looking for work and collecting unemployment. I have been told that there are jobs out there for me too - more times than I can count - but unfortunately the market is so tight and there are more ideal candidates than myself. Funny that they recommend desk jobs when sitting is hard on the back as well. Sitting is worse for me that most other things - with the exceptions of bending, lifting, twisting and such.

    I haven't applied for disability because I doubt I would get it due to my age and potential for retraining. I started graduate school a month ago which is keeping me busy. So far i am paying for it through a loan. I have applied for a training grant through the department of vocational rehab but it hasn't come through yet. Typical of the government. I am also working with a lawyer on appealing the work comp denial for coverage of vocational rehabilitation. I chose nursing education as the specialty figuring that it would allow me a more flexible schedule and keep me out of direct patient care for the most part. So, I keep chugging a long, hoping that things will come out ini my favor.

    Good luck to all of you as well. Keep that advice coming
  10. by   Heogog53
    okie dokie....
    dee- i'd talk to a disability lawyer. the consultation is free. i also recommend looking at other jobs, such as dialysis, infusion, doc's office or clinic(if large university med center).
    i just found out that my or will not take me back due to one restriction my doc assigned; i have to be able to stretch for five minutes every hour. now, as a circulator, i have done plenty stretching, and as a scrub, i done some, but not as much. however, the hospital is looking at this requirement to mean that i absolutely have to stretch every hour on the hour- which is something that they can't officially accommodate. now, my rehab is over and my case has been partially closed- the treatment portion.

    i asked my attorney to find out exactly which jobs at the hospital i do qualify for. i also went through the list of job openings and sent the ones i thought i could do to him as well. the questions i have for the hospital are; if there are suitable jobs, can i find out what kind of seminars/conferences/contact hours i'll need to study or take to help ease me into a completely different part of nursing. i'm pretty smart and i imagine that i can get through whatever extra stuff is required/suggested.

    in the meantime, i have signed up to take several courses/seminars on my own, to enhance my resume if and when the hospital and i part or if i can land a job. i'm taking a diagnostic course on 12 lead ekg's as well as how to read a chest x-ray, an iv chemo/biotherapy course which oncology infusion nurses need and any infusion nurse should probably take, a peripheral vascular disease seminar(cos i'm still hoping that i can get a job relevant to the or) and just signed up for acls.....which was very expensive on my dime. however, with bcls and acls, joining the oncology nurses society and considering infusion nurse group, and the powerful number of contact hours i'll be getting-----there has to be someplace for me.

    if not, my disability rating is 3% on my back(all of 3%?????doesn't seem to match how i feel!), my lawyer will push them for the best settlement he can and i go on uninsurance.......and cobra......
    and will take as many more courses as i can, to find something to do, hopefully as an infusion nurse.

    i can't work a 12 hour shift, so many units are simply unavailable to me. i can't lift more than 50 lbs, and some places require 60.

    if things really go to hell, i might try becoming a bcls/acls/pals instructor or something.

    however, i strongly suggest that you both talk to a a disability doc, unless you are still struggling with your workman's comp claim- in that case, go see a workman's comp lawyer. once i did that, suddenly i got a second opinion, was finally given the treatment i wanted/needed for the last 3 years, etc. these guys don't collect unless you do. gather all your paperwork, find out who's a good lawyer in town and go there asap for a free consultation. the lawyer will tell you whether you have a case at all or just tell you to fill in the paperwork, cos he/she will know how sound a case you have.

    good luck to all of us.....
  11. by   HM2VikingRN
  12. by   noreenl
    Definitely apply for disability because some states have a time limit as to how long after your last paycheck you can file for disability. My husband almost lost out on his disability pension because of a time frame question!