Friday, August 16, 2013

Modified Duty and an Update on my Workplace Injuries...

I have been on Disability since May 3rd of this year. On that date, I was assaulted by a patient who, unexpectedly, used his elbow to hit me as hard as he could twice to my chest. The out of control patient broke two or three ribs (depending upon which report you read). A part of my lung was deflated and bruised.  My back was screwed up as the force of the blows (these ribs attach to the vertebrae of the back), and the struggle to contain the client, combined to create a situation where my ribs and back are in constant pain. In short, I was messed up real bad.

In the past week, I was politely told that I needed to go back to work by the Workman's Comp professionals. I was given "Modified Duty", which means the hospital needs to find a position for me to "work" within the terms of my "Modified Duty". I met with the Employee Health Nurse last week, a very kind, "my hands are tied" professional, who offered me a job of sitting in a windowless, dank room and given the vastly important job of taking apart charts for the hospital. A mind numbing job, boring as hell. Eight hours worth.

When I said that my back would be unable to handle sitting for that amount of time, I was offered a "vest for upper back support" and a geriatric, lounge chair---which is a chair designed for elder adults--made of plastic, so that I could pee at will while sitting in it. I couldn't imagine spending two hours a week taking apart charts, let alone 20 hours. So, as is my nature, I complained about the job: "I think you are punishing me for getting injured by offering me a mind numbing job". I asked for a job doing something else. "Let me get up and walk around the hospital?"

The Employee Health Nurse was kind enough to arrange for me to do a job I already did at the hospital: Case Management for the Chemical Dependency Unit. I've been helping out in that department for a year. We all congratulated ourselves for our creativity in providing me with Modified Duty and we all were happy about it. Until it came time for me to work a shift.

Alas, my ribs and my back have not healed well enough over the last three months. I am in constant pain after a couple hours of being upright. I knew this going into work, but I promised the impatient Human Resources Director that I'd give it a go. (This HR Director already felt the hospital had been more than patient with my situation given that ribs generally heal within six to eight weeks, and my ribs haven't healed in 12 weeks).  I promised to give it a try out of respect to my employer. I was told that I could take pain medication at work to relieve my pain. And so I was in the rather ironic position of attempting to do Case Management on an Addictions Unit while taking an opiate for pain.

Frankly, I don't think any MD or RN or any health professional should go to work if they need to take medications that impair one's performance on the job. Why should I be forced to go to work, taking opiates, whereby if I did this in my normal duty the workplace would send me home, suspend me, possibly fire me, report me to the Nursing Board and press criminal charges against me and require me to get mandatory chemical dependency treatment. This just doesn't make sense.

It didn't work, the pain was too much and so after two days of trying to work, I went to the Workman's Compensation Clinic and was relieved from duty for two more weeks when I will, once again, see the MD that holds my employment fate in his hands.

I also was sent to see a Physiatrist, a pain management MD, who promises to relieve my pain by shooting up the muscles in my right thoracic region with a mixture of steroids and lidocaine. Sounds fun. As soon as the Workman's Comp. Bureaucrats okay this procedure, I will have this done. It is sort of like waiting for the Poliburo to choose a new Secretary of the Communist Party in the old Soviet Union. Everything stops until the announcement is made. I've already been through Physical Therapy of six sessions, with a 5%  improvement to show for it. They denied me of receiving help from a Chiropractor. I paid for a few sessions anyway, without any improvement to my pain or condition.

I don't think any of us fully understood at the time of this injury, just how serious this injury was/is. I am a bit concerned that this injury may very well signal the end of my nursing career. I've broken my ribs multiple times before; I always healed just fine. Not this time. I remain in pain--nothing has healed or improved over almost three and a half months. I am worried.

That's the update on my injury, for those who might be interested. I wish I had cheerier news.


  1. Hospitals can really be precarious work sites. In addition to the runaway patient, there's equipment and infectious to watch out for (I could just remember the stuff I read about a patient being a walking biohazard ). Which is why contingencies should not be put aside in places like these; in fact, this should be doubled. We should promote the right praxis in these places.

  2. Best of luck in your journey to try and achieve some normalcy. I hope the hospital will continue to try and work with you.

  3. It's too bad that you had to suffer such injuries. It's never pleasant getting injured at work, especially if it hinders you from doing the work you love. I hope you get through this predicament and be active again.
    Karina Rheaume @ U.S. HealthWorks