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Sitting down - New nurse looking for advice

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by MgoBlue37 MgoBlue37, BSN (New Member) New Member

37 Likes; 804 Visitors; 8 Posts

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Hi everyone!

 I recently graduated from an accelerated nursing program as a BSN this past December and was offered a position in a Level III ED hospital in a large Metropolitan area. However, due to personal health reasons I've been having a rough time with my new job. Without going into a long story, I've had major back surgery 4 times (2 discectomies, 1 spinal fusion, 1 reconstruction) since the age of 19 due to a herniated disc from a college sports injury. I've been active my whole life, but the part that gets me is standing on my feet for longer than 30-45 minutes without sitting down - I'm talking 8-9/10 level sciatic-type pain. I was able to complete all of my clinicals while in school with minimal issues with my pain, but since starting my new job and working 12.5 hour shifts I've been in so much pain. 

Being a new nurse is tough as it is, but I've been excelling in my new position and really love all the activity of the ED - I've been in 1 code, hung TPA, and had 3 critical stroke patients just in my first week of work. However, every day at work I'm in so much pain that I just can't function normally. Every shift I've had in the first month and a half I've been able to sit for maybe 15 minutes consecutively in a 6-7 hour span, it's just that busy. Without further personal details, I do see pain management on a regular basis and there's not much more they can do for me outside of doping me up which is not an option for me. I feel I have to step away from this position since I cannot take the pain anymore. I'm not sure where to look for a nursing job where I can sit down for the majority of my shift. I really need to think long term here for my health since I have at least 35 years left of work before I retire. 

Without any prior experience, what areas of nursing could I look into where I could sit down? I've thought of these areas that "may" allow me to sit, but I'm curious as to what others think?

- Public health nurse: County job
- Circulating nurse?: can they sit down during their shift?
- CVICU: I've heard many nurses can sit at the end of the bed of a Pt and monitor from there
- Chart review: Non-clinical and many of them want experience (IDK if this is interesting to me)
- School nursing: Not big in my area - many nurses are contracted through agencies not affiliated with the actual district

I really don't know where to look at this point. I will definitely miss the action of the ED, but my health is way more important and at this point there's not much physically more I can do. Thanks for any input!

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Night__Owl has 3 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a Dialysis Nurse.

88 Likes; 481 Visitors; 93 Posts

Is it possible for you to take shorter shifts? I know there are many EDs out there which have both 8 hour and 12 hour shifts. What is the minimal duration and frequency that you need to sit in order to be relatively comfortable, and not killing yourself in the name of your job?

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37 Likes; 804 Visitors; 8 Posts

I've been offered by management to do 8 hour shifts, however it would be more days on my feet overall. I'd say that the minimal duration that I'd need to sit is about 15 minutes for every hour or at least have the opportunity to sit frequently. For example, in an hour I can stand quite a bit if I have the time to break it up. So far I've gone about 3.5 hours of standing without sitting, but by the time I do get to rest my back is spasming so much that it's hard to recover until I can get home. I like the idea of the OR to be honest and reading the posts on here, I've seen that circulating nurses can sit often depending on the type of surgery.

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dream'n has 25 years experience and works as a RN.

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I am arguing with myself about responding.  I'm not a mean person and don't want to be unsympathetic, but at the same time, this type of question irritates the heck out of me.  Unfortunately it seems to come up quite often, in many different forms, among some new grad nurses here.

I guess I'm just going to say it straight out...why on Earth did you go to school and become a nurse if you can't stand for long periods?  

I'm one of the many nurses that have worked my butt off for years; missed holidays, worked weekends, took night shift even when it made me ill, worked when I was having more pain than the patient and had to crawl in the front door after a long shift.  I've raised 3 kids, dealt with horribly traumatic events, been a single parent, and been broke as heck.  And now, finally, I've earned my stripes and have the sit down, no weekend, no call, no holiday job.  But I freakin' earned it, the hard way and so has every other nurse that has put in his/her time and now can look forward to better positions.  

I just don't understand why the OP or the other new grads (a minority) that complain about the physical and/or mental challenges in nursing.  What is wrong with people??

Edited by dream'n

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dream'n has 25 years experience and works as a RN.

48 Likes; 14,305 Visitors; 995 Posts

4 minutes ago, MgoBlue37 said:

I've been offered by management to do 8 hour shifts, however it would be more days on my feet overall. I'd say that the minimal duration that I'd need to sit is about 15 minutes for every hour or at least have the opportunity to sit frequently. For example, in an hour I can stand quite a bit if I have the time to break it up. So far I've gone about 3.5 hours of standing without sitting, but by the time I do get to rest my back is spasming so much that it's hard to recover until I can get home. I like the idea of the OR to be honest and reading the posts on here, I've seen that circulating nurses can sit often depending on the type of surgery.

OR nurses are on their feet alot.  Night shift and certainly not in the ER might help

Edited by dream'n

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37 Likes; 804 Visitors; 8 Posts

Well I certainly don't agree with your point of view, and to be honest it seems that you come from the idea of "old school" nursing to me that the profession is trying to change. I don't feel that I should have to "earn" my right to be able to sit down in nursing or any other profession for that matter. That is a type of elitist attitude that is very condescending.

My motives to go into nursing were to offer the ability to help those who cannot help themselves. What about nurses who are disabled, that use wheelchairs, or prosthetics, should they not join the nursing profession because some roles are more physically demanding than others? Just because I'd like to sit down for a legitimate physical reason does not mean that I cannot provide more than adequate care for anyone in any setting. While in the ED, I can go into a Pt's room and sit down and talk with them in order to review their complaints, history, etc. I doubt any of them are thinking why is this nurse not standing and talking to me instead of sitting down - in fact it has been proven in numerous studies that Pt's feel more comfortable and communicate much more effectively when a provider is able to be at bedside at an eye-to-eye level.

That being said, I know there is much more to nursing than just bedside which is why I'm posting in the first place to reach out to those who are kind enough to offer advice that have been in the field in other areas.

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KatieMI has 6 years experience as a BSN, MSN and works as a Internal Medicine.

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Option 1: find a GOOD pain specialist who knows more than just pills/shots. Such doctors are few and far between, but if you live in a large metto area, you might have easier time to find one. The ways to manage the pain are multiple, from TENS to muscle relaxers, corsages, massage, etc. Do not forget about core PT, stress management, comfortable shoes, nutrition, healthy weight, etc. 

Option 2: unfortunately, nursing is an area of occupation which is not  very friendly to people with physical limitations. ICU in general and CVICU are not physically easy. Since you are expected to care for only 2 patients, you might be required to do total body care, including turning, bed baths, etc., etc., - alone. 

Option if you like machines, needles, acute management: acute HD (yes, you can found yourself pushing that 200 lbs machine around but it has wheels, moving can be done with proper body technique and after things are running you can sit back - for hours). 

I heard that NICU is better in the sense of less physical load but I am not sure if it is fully truthful. 

Case management can be another option, as well as going back to school for MSN. Unlike bedside nursing, most MSN specialties can easily accomodate physical limitations. 

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1 hour ago, MgoBlue37 said:

don't feel that I should have to "earn" my right to be able to sit down in nursing or any other profession for that matter. That is a type of elitist attitude that is very condescending.

It’s really not a matter of “earning the right” it’s not having enough experience to do the job. It seems counterintuitive but most of the “sit-down” types of jobs require skills that new grads just don’t have. 

You really should reconsider the 8 hour shifts. It’s only 4 hours more per week but it’s less hours per day on your feet. 

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River&MountainRN has 3 years experience.

140 Likes; 1,611 Visitors; 156 Posts

Depending on the actual practice, outpatient medicine (primary care, specialty care) is usually a lot of sitting. As far as actually using your nursing skills/knowledge, I've found that kind of position is what you make of it (mentally challenging vs rote). 

 

Private duty home health isn't something I'd usually recommend for a new grad, except you started off in the ER so you have a little more hands-on, intense experience than most. It's hit or miss as far as being back friendly (I actually re-injured my herniated disc on one case, but now I only have an ambulatory patient, so it can go both ways), so I wouldn't recommend it full-time, but if you can get in on the right case it has its merits...

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37 Likes; 804 Visitors; 8 Posts

I appreciate the advice so far. Unfortunately, a lot of the options mentioned such as TENS, massage, etc. have not worked for my pain. Aside from exercising frequently and being active, my biggest trigger is prolonged standing, not so much as the moving or lifting things. I could definitely look into areas such as HD or the more 1 on 1 areas as well. 

I also see what you mean in terms of experience type jobs such as management or educators that require the actual work in that specialty that new grads don't have. Unfortunately in nursing school, we aren't exposed to the types of positions that nurses may work in that aren't as physically demanding as bedside nursing. With such an adaptable field, I'm curious to see how nurses fit into such roles as informatics or nurse navigation too and what they entail.

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LibraNurse27 has 5 years experience.

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I think working in a community clinic would be great for you. I did it for 3 years after injuring my back in a SNF and it did involve a lot of sitting while answering triage phone calls, talking to patients, reviewing labs, helping with prescriptions, etc. There was minimal standing and walking to see patients in person which I liked because sitting for hours at a time is also not great for back injuries. I also really enjoyed the work! Primary care can be like the ER but (hopefully!) not as acute. You will see a huge variety and learn a lot and your ER skills will come in handy because people come to the clinic that should be in the ER! Good luck 

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Been there,done that has 33 years experience and works as a case manager.

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I ended up working from  home for an insurance company, doing utilization review. However, that did require much clinical experience. Some of the big insurance companies will higher newbies  for positions  like disease management

Scour the job boards for positions that do not require standing for long periods.

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