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Return to work! feel ambushed

dawnieeddawniee Posts: 48
Hi all,
I have been off sick for four months herniated L4/L5/L5/S1 DDD
and moderate bilateral foraminal stenosis. I was initially signed off by my GP and was seen by a spinal surgeon who suggested physio caudal epidurals and see how those go and that I would benefit from lighter duties at work. So far I have had 3 physio apps and started pain class but was told to stop as it was exacerbating my pain symptoms this was done via the occupational health physio.

Any how to cut a long story short I am still fighting for epidurals am still signed off sick and have serious pain issues. I am on tramadol, voltarol, codiene and lyrica. Plus the use of a tens machine and heat therapy. My pain levels remain moderate to severe dependent upon the level of activity I am involved in.

Today my manager called and told me that she had recieved notification from occupational health that I could return to light duties. Therefore come Monday morning I will be back in work working as a records clerk, rather than a senior scrub nurse in the operating theatres.

Here's my point these decisions were made without any involvement with me. The occupational health physio is well aware of my pain issues. It feels like I have been side swiped by my manager to come back to work so as she does not have to replace a records clerk who is off long term sick. My Gp has not been involved and my pain issues have not been resolved.

The benefits are that I won't go onto half pay at the end of January and I know I have to show willing. It's just the way it's been done. I get the impression that she would not be happy if I was to question these decisions. I have managed to negotiate that my return won't take place till December 3rd and it will be a phased return. Maybe I am being over sensitive and should just be grateful for the fact that she has managed to redeploy me whatever her reasons.

I suppose I will just have to try it and see. Well thats me vented for the day I am off for some tramadol and to lash my TENS machine on.Any opinions or advice welcome.

Dawnie xx


  • Do you have a union? Did your Doctor clear you to go back to work? I'm totally disabled unable to sit 20 minutes or stand or walk more than 50 feet without resting. If you can't work as a scrub Nurse how can you work as a file clerk if you can't sit or stand or lift anything? Maybe you made a plan to go back Dec. 3rd but you'll just reinjure. it takes a long time to heal. Why make your back worse by working? Are you on narcotics? Are you allowed to work while taking narcotics? Your Occupational health office obviously believes you not sick for sure. Long story short. If you're Dr. says you can't work they can't make you. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Also...

    I would blame the Physio from Occupational Health. That person seems to be the one who said you could return. Any chance your GP would overrule that?

    I'm out on my 3rd short term disability of the year, atm. Each instance is a new claim, meaning starting over with 100% pay for X amount of time. As long as I go back to work for two full weeks, in between claims. Find out how your plan works. If they force you to go back, make sure that you stay long enough to start a new short term disability claim.

    Sorry for the situation that you are in. I can certainly relate.

    36 years old
    3/27/08 L5-S1 Microdiscectomy
    6/27/08 L5-S1 Microdiscectomy

    Current Status = Re-reherniated. Next surgery:
    12/01/08 L5-S1 Microdiscectomy
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  • Hi,
    I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. December 3rd is when my sick note runs out. My Gp has not said I can go back it appears it has been decided on the letter from the spinal surgeon and the physio.

    Yet as I mentioned she is already fully aware of my pain issues she only saw me last week!! I am trying to contact the unions to see where I stand.

    But as I have already mentioned I am terrified of manager getting angry!!

  • Dawniee,
    You have rightly surmised that your pain becomes worse on increased activity and sometimes on the basis of doing nothing at all, to have caused another flare up. These imposed decisions are never easy, as it becomes more apparent to ourselves that although we are strong and resilient the reality for some is that demise and restriction of function however small, has to be addressed for our overall wellbeing and at times longevity to continue working at all, as the symptoms persist.

    This is an imposed change and these are never easy, what would you have liked them to do, it is not unreasonable for you to have had some consultation and be part of the decision making process rather than being that last to know.

    My progressive decline follow a similar route as light duties became a reality as the only realistic option and never easy to accept or adapt. This transition from my perspective seemed overnight and made me question my own capability and the role I had worked so hard to develop, in reality I had climbed the promotional height and overnight to have that snuffed out in a moment, understandably that took some considerable time to readjust, if ever.

    Whatever you do you are the same kind person inside and I use that mantra to myself, the perception who I became to myself and others was of my own making and I have some influence on how I thought of myself in this new imposed role.

    It is not the job of your manager to become angry at a process not of your choosing, this is not career enhancement you are enduring, and that is an issue for him and not you, I fully understand you have to live within these parameters and environment, the union option should offer you some protection and you may well need to be assertive and communicate though the union itself. Your manager’s role is through OH and you must point him in that direction.

    I was on one year full pay, one year half pay and them medically retired at 38, I utilised this what I call “down time” well and now teach, which would have never happened had none of this event occurred.

    Take care you are doing a good job in difficult circumstances and will get through this.

    John…. =D>
  • I totally empathize and remember being right where you are now...several times in fact. Nurses are programmed to put everyone else first and not to complain..which works against us when we get hurt or become ill. :(

    I myself am 'retired' from nursing, not of my choice. It is difficult for me to accept this loss of career, but nursing is a career not easy on the spine. You may find sitting at a desk on light duty, filing, phoning,computer work is not easy on your injured spine now either.

    Your meds while reducing your pain may be making your brain sluggish for any tasking at work. Just some things to consider when you speak to the powers that be and i hope you do; sounds like they are pushing you back too fast.

    John's post was right on in every way! I wish you healing right now and know you are worrying for the potential loss of job/career but your priority must be getting well FIRST and you must communicate fully with your providers exactly how you are feeling or they will push you to work. If they insist you try this clerk job let them know immediatly if it goes badly and from the sound of your symptoms it will not go well...do not 'tough things out' if your pain is as severe as you describe.

    Hugs to you and Happy Thanksgiving.
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  • Are you in the UK? Are you a member of RCN?

    Work Injured Nurse group are well worth a look up. They help maintain skill base of qualified nurses and maintain a proper job opening for as long as possible.

    Also look into Disability Discrimination, Access To Work and your company's sickness policy.

    In the last you should have been consulted regards your job change. This may also have implications legally on your contract and pay. Be very careful. Seek external advice.

    I also agree with comments above. I have struggled on and the pain would be ther in what ever job do / did.

    Please seek professional advice. The decsion should be including you (to be reasonable as well) GP, Physio, employer HR, and OH. Get external help - Work Place assessment where reasonable adjustments are suggested to employer to put in place to protect tyou both from DDA.
  • Well here's an up date I will try and keep it brief. I have been told by my manager that she is going on information from occupational health that is the physios recommendation that I can return on light duties.

    I saw my Gp on Monday just past and he is not happy that I am going back to work. It was only through pursuasion that I could have a phased return that he agreed to sign me back on a strict phased return timetable over 6 to 8 weeks with the proviso that if need be he would sign me off sick again as in his opinion I am not ready to return even on light duties.

    Now my manager is saying that occupational health that is the physio says my phased return is to be implemented over 3 weeks. This goes against my Gps advice and also that of the union.

    Well last night and yesterday I reached breaking point I was just hysterically upset and felt driven to it by the situation. No one is listening. I have still had no treatment just four lots of physio. My pain levels are still severe to moderate I am still fighting to get seen by a pain specialist for caudal epidurals and I still have cauda equina symptoms..... but hey I am supposedly fit for work. What a joke.

    But heres the rub we are broke and bills need paying so I have to do something. TODAY is the day I am going to spew chunks and get things dam well sorted out. I have had enough of getting the run around and will not be bullied and ambushed by my manager.

    thanks for letting me vent.

  • Hi Dawniee

    I really hope that you are not bullied in to a phased return over 3 weeks. I had (touchwood)a successful 2 level fusion & Decompression operation in October 2007 and was off for 3 months. I went back to work on a phased basis (on the advice of my surgeon & physio) and it took me 9 weeks to get back to my normal hours - I work in accounts and spend all day sitting. It is not an easy time at all when you return to work after a long absence and sitting I found to be one of the most difficult things after surgery.....even though my surgeon said I was in the top 5% of recoveries for patients he had operated on.

    I had to fight for my phased return with my employers because they thought it would only take two weeks for me to be back to normal! I had a horrible time for the first 2 weeks I was back and had to fight my corner with my manager and HR Director (when I least felt up to it) - luckily my physio was on my side and an occupational therapist was brought in (she told them that their goals for me were unrealistic and not based on medical knowledge). During this time I was highly stressed mentally and physically - in fact my progress was put back by about 4 weeks. If I could have resigned I would have. I must say that now I am happy at work and my symptoms are manageable (especially as I go for a walk in my lunch break to divide the sitting up!) :)

    Please do not let anyone bully you in to meeting their expectations for you. Please also put your health first and try not to let things interfere with your recovery.

    My best wishes are with you :)

    Good luck


    L4/L5 & L5/S1 Fusion & decompression with instrumentation 1st October 2007
  • show up to try this desk job, perhaps exclaim 'I find this job impossible to perform at this time due to my excruciating pain...I cannot continue'...making everybody aware of your situation very clearly. Then leave. Then notify all your providers a return to work will NOT occur again ntil you receive appropriate treatment..then you are down on record as having attempted 'THEIR plan but was unable to comply.

    Now I am in the US and do not know UK laws so undoubtedly a UK nurse is much better able to advise you on this matter as she/he knows your laws and situation regarding this issue.

    I was unable to return to ANY work for a year after my back surgery, and a sitting for long periods of time was hardest on me. Mine was a workers comp injury (on the job) and I remember being treated poorly by my employer(and my coworkers as well) and needing an attorney to help me as the hospital tried to blame me, discredit me, deny I was hurt on the job, etc) it was a horrid experience! :(

    One career change my spine surgeon tried to push me towards was NEWBORN NURSERY due to the lighter workload so this may be something you might consider once you are well healed in time. (if you are able to return to adult patient care, which I did, altho in 20-20 hindsite I should not have as it was hard on my spine) I eventually returned part time to my ICU which was my niche in nursing.

    Now my first job 1 yr after my back surgery was doing third party medical bill audits...it was interesting work actually and the heaviest lifting was patient charts. :)

    The good news is there is a wide variety of jobs for nurses and not all require lifting. I tell you these things to give you a vision ahead so you can heal NOW and know you WILL eventually feel better and THEN you can focus on what you will do ...and know you may or may not return to your surgery job. it may simply be too hard on you my friend.

    But take things one day at a time for now and see how things go and focus on getting your spine well right now not pushing yourself into stress filled pain filled situations like work when you are not ready...how can this help you heal???

    Sorry so long...I just remember being right where you are.

    God bless and hope your situation improves. good for you for refusing to be bullied! If you can get an attorney or an advocate you may wish to do so.

    Hugs to you my friend and PM if you need to vent or wish to talk further.
  • Hi Dawniee,
    I am sorry to hear about your troubles. I too have been in your shoes before and my injury was almost a duplicate of yours. I would advise you to talk with a workers comp specialized lawyer soon. They (most) work on a percentage. I am not sure if you are in the US, or if you are in the UK. I do not know the way things work in the UK. I fought the system for four years without a lawyer before I hired one. It took a year after that before I finally got my operation. But without the lawyer I would still be fighting. As for your modified duty at work, I too would show up as advised. I would not hesitate to let them know if I was not able to do what they wanted me to do. Hurting yourself to appease the company Dr. will only do further damage to your discs. Best of luck.
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