By in Personal

I don't know what to do

I am off work yet again with my sore back. I have been off work far too much this last year, in fact when I go back I will have to have a management meeting because I have had more than eight days off in the last six months.

It's so strange because prior to starting university I was never one for being sick. In the nine years I was in my previous job the only time I missed work was when I broke my hand and wrist in four places and after the original accident that damaged my back in the first place.

I think I have just been really unlucky to be honest, I was misdiagnosed with gallstones and was off for a week or so with those. While I waited for my scan I went back to work as the pain had subsided a good bit, then I ended up with what I thought was the winter vomiting bug - very common in nurses due to all the people that come in with it. Well it turned out that I didn't have gallstones and that meant more questions than answers but it was only when I appeared to get the winter vomiting bug for a second time which would have been a little strange that they decided to run a test for helicobacter and it turns out that's what I had. I had treatment and thought my problems were over.

Last week I changed my shifts so I could go away at the weekend, this meant I worked Friday Saturday sunday nightshift before doing Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday day shift the next week. I knew it would be hard going and to be honest knew I shouldn't be doing it with my back not being great. I couldn't miss the party though, my old boss was retiring and he had done so much for me, it would mean the world to him to see me there.

I felt my back getting worse the last few days of my shifts but that happens sometimes when I do too much and its never a problem that a day or so of rest doesn't solve so I didn't think much of it. I put it out of my mind and went to the party.

When I came back on the sunday I knew I had done too much but I was due in work Monday Tuesday Wednesday night before getting a decent break and not being back till the next Tuesday. I would rest then I thought.

I got up at tea time on Monday and knew I was in trouble, I couldn't straighten up fully and even walking was painful. I stupidly went to work anyway. I parked my car and struggled to get out of it - why I even drove I do not know, I knew I shouldn't be there but I also knew that there are concerns about my sickness absence and that the ward would struggle to get the shift covered. I hobbled to the ward which by the way is miles away and was pretty much instantly sent home. I was told not to drive myself home but I had no option, the other half doesn't drive and there was no one else to come get me. Had I left my car where it was parked it would have gotten a ticket as soon as dayshift came on and I likely wouldn't have gotten anyone to move it before it was towed or something. I had to get the car out of where it was.

I hobbled to the car and drove like I was driving on an ice road. Every bump in the road a constant reminder of how stupid I had been to even attempt such a ridiculous idea. I got home, managed to park the car which was interesting given I couldn't turn around to see behind me. Then I realised I couldn't get out the car. He came and got me out and we somehow managed to get me up the three flights of stairs and straight into bed.

The next day at the doctors I was signed off work for two weeks with instructions to contact occupational health. I have always tried not to involve them because they can, in extreme circumstances take you out of your job or make adjustments to it due to your injury. I knew the wait for regular physio would be more than the sick time i have left so i made the call and got an appointment the next day would you believe.

The physio basically said I have not been looking after my back properly and it has taken its toll. I have a strict exercise regime and will hopefully be back at work in a few weeks. The painkillers I have just about knock me out and i am just generally feeling sorry for myself right now.

I worry about my future, will I be able to continue doing my job? Should i look for something else? I am fortunate in that there are so many options available to me, do I go get a community nursing post where i will not need to do as much physical lifting but i may be miserable forever? I looked at the NHS recruitment site and there is a job going in the homeless and asylum seeker health service here in Glasgow, its an area of particular interest to me, do i go for that? I doubt they would give me that job because i have no community nursing experience and would need a decent amount of extra training to do the job. Do I apply to a less demanding ward? Well I have already done that and hated it.

Or do I go back to the job I love and risk something really awful happening to my back which could put me out of work all together? Oh i just don't know what to do!

You will need an account to comment - feel free to register or login.


MegL wrote on January 20, 2017, 11:00 AM

This is quite a dilemma. I know you love the job you have, though I believe there was a slightly different area you preferred? Is there a different ward you could go on, even temporarily that wouldn't stress out your back as much? Is there anything else, beside the exercises that could help? What's the worst that could happen? Could you paralyse yourself continuing to do this work? If so, it's not worth it, no matter how much you love it. I understand helicobacter is associated with ulcers, which used to be associated with stress, not sure whether they are now that they have found a bug to blame. It is surprising that more nurses are not off sick with the job they do and the stress they are put under.
I suppose the most likely thing I would say is: "If you had a friend that was in this position, what would you advise her to do?" So what would you advise your friend to do?

melody23 wrote on January 20, 2017, 12:35 PM

I was initially in a different area but managed to get moved to where I wanted to be. I doubt there is an option for temporary reassignment, its unlikely at my grade that such a short term post would come up and I doubt my manager would be happy being a staff member down.

The physio seems convinced its all muscular and possibly not even related to the ligament damage I originally suffered in the accident a few years back, in which case exercises should help and there wouldn't really be any other option unfortunately. I doubt I could end up paralysed if it is all muscular, but I have never had a scan or anything to confirm that because they don't tend to scan backs as it doesn't usually make a difference to treatment options anyway. In my case I think I should have been scanned just because my original injury happened in a traffic accident but apparently it wont make a difference.

They actually think helicobacter causes the ulcers now, not the other way around so its unlikely to have been stress related but who knows, I sure have had a stressful year.

I don't want to give up the job I love, but on the other hand no more twelve hour shifts and no more manual handling sounds like an attractive deal right now. I guess I need to play it by ear for a little while longer, see what the physio has to say then see what my boss has to say when I go back

Kasman wrote on January 20, 2017, 4:42 PM

As someone who has worked in nursing homes and hospitals as an auxiliary for some years I know exactly what you're going through! Very few in our profession take care of their back properly and the needs of the job dictate that we do what must be done - and to hell with 'elf an' safety! Both my wife and myself have dodgy backs solely as a result of our work. A complete change of attitude is the only real cure even if that means working somewhere which is less fulfilling for you. One thing is clear, if you carry on as you are you will end up with permanent back problems. You mention helicobacter pylori. My wife also has this and now I am wondering if it's something to do with the stress of the job! As MegL says 'what would you advise a friend in this position to do?'

melody23 wrote on January 21, 2017, 12:17 PM

I did a lot of reading about helicobacter because the other half had it a few years back, I was convinced I had it at the time too and couldn't convince the doctors to test me. I had all the symptoms including unexplained weight gain but they just told me I needed to go on a diet and sent me on my merry way! During my reading I learned that it is one of many bacteria that most of us carry without any issue its only some of us that seem affected by it - stress was one of the hypothesised reasons for it bothering some more than others. Certainly when he had it he was very stressed in work and I have had a stressful few years too, perhaps there is something to the theory?

I think I will wait to see what comes of physio before making a decision, who knows if I stick to my exercises it might make things a whole lot better then I would be worrying about nothing.