Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD.....OR.....COULDN'T: Coping in the workplace with disability and chronic pain

Returning and/or remaining in the workforce can be challenging for anyone. There are numerous stresses such as deadlines, conflicts and personal issues that can effect an individual’s success in the workplace. When one is disabled and suffering with chronic pain, the difficulties and challenges become magnified many times over. The World Health Organization defines disability as: “Disability is any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.” As a person experiencing returning to the workforce with a disability, I can assure you that it is a daunting task. A down right scary one at that.

I have previously stated that my pain is well controlled now and for that I could not be any more thrilled. I have also stated that I do very well as long as I don’t over-do it too much. Well, yesterday I did. I attended a combination job interview/job trial that kept me from home for too many hours. The drive time alone took one hour and 10 minutes ONE way. Then I had a brief interview/orientation and proceeded to carry out the tasks of the job for 8 hours.

As a nurse for 21 years, this job is something I have never done before. It is basically a quality control position. This pharmacy company provides pre-packed medications and blister packs for nursing homes, chronic care hospitals and retirement homes. In other words, it is a medication-packing factory. It is an extremely fast-paced environment as they provide this service not only for local places but also for nursing homes as far away as a 5 hour drive. Needless to say it is very busy. My job was to ensure that the pre-packaged medication that was sealed by the machine had the correct medication in it. Frankly, you would be surprised to see how many errors do in fact occur and therefore this quality control position is essential.

When I returned home last evening I felt one step away from dead. I fell asleep quite early and awoke feeling horrid pain that I have not experienced for a while. Still feeling exhausted this morning, it quickly became apparent that I had ‘over-done it’ and my body was screaming this at me in no uncertain terms. The manager of the pharmacy stated that he would contact me by the end of the week and let me know if I have the job. I need to work, as WSIB will no longer pay me beyond the end of the month, which is 7 days from now. So, what to do…

I didn’t mind the job at all, my only concern is whether or not I can actually be successful long-term in this position. Will I in time become better able to manage the job or will I fall on my face and fail miserably? I want to be the ‘Little Engine That Could,’ truly I do. There is much documentation regarding this topic and you may read a few of them here, here and here. I know many disabled and/or chronic pain sufferers have been successful in their careers and I would love to hear from anyone that has ever been in this type of situation in which I now find myself.

Take care and stay well,

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