What kind of work can a disabled nurse do?

By | 2021-05-28T17:26:55-04:00 April 29th, 2015|12 Comments

Q: Dear Donna,

I’ve been a maternity RN for 15 years. I had a spinal injury, which causes 24-hour constant pain. I’m really confused about what kind of nursing position I can do with my disability. I’m an energetic, hands-on nurse. Thanks!

Q: Dear Nurse with pain issues,

The great thing about this profession is that there is something for everyone, and you probably have more options than you realize.

For starters, at companies that do remote monitoring of ICU patients, you sit at a computer most of the time. Most of them welcome nurses with disabilities because it is your nursing knowledge, experience and assessment skills they are interested in. Do an Internet search for “eICU” companies and apply directly to them, or make connections on LinkedIn. The Nurse.com article, “The eICU’s eye never blinks,” explains all about eICUs.

Many insurance companies also have opportunities for nurses that are either home-based or located in their offices. These include telephone triage, telephone advice, disease management, case management and many others. Again, it is your nursing knowledge and experience that is valuable here. Some of these companies even have special recruiters for prospective employees with disabilities of all types and have a special phone number to call if you have a disability and are seeking employment.

The same holds true for the pharmaceutical industry, where nurses work as drug information specialists and other telephone/computer-centric positions. Contact some pharmaceutical companies and ask to speak to the nurse recruiter or healthcare recruiter in the human resources department.

Don’t mention your disability up front unless you are calling an “employee with disabilities” line at a prospective place of employment. Focus on your great nursing experience, knowledge and skill set. Make the disability a footnote rather than a headline. Convey energy, enthusiasm and passion for your work. That will get you further than you can imagine. Read “Can this career be saved?” about working with a disability.

Best wishes,



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About the Author:

Donna Cardillo
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, is president of DonnaCardillo.com. Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, and author of "Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional" and "The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career." She brings more than 25 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru.


  1. Avatar
    Jacqueline Hobbs September 7, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Hi Donna:
    I have been out of the workforce for 17 yrs as a home health / mental health nurse. I am thinking about reinstatement of my RN license in the state of Georgia but the cost is way beyond my disability income of $699 a month? Is there any organization that employ nurses with a BSN degree but is not currently licensed. I am also recently divorced after 44 years of marriage.i thank & bless you for your assistance.
    Jacqueline Hobbs

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    janetta l valderas July 14, 2019 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Dear Donna,
    My name is Jan. I have so much knowledge and experience in a vast number of nursing specialties. I have not worked since 2015.
    I have cervical myelopathy, which leaves my legs weak and balance a challenge. I was misdiagnosed w MS for several years, and until I found the right neurologist, it was too late. My spinal cord not has permanent damage. 2 level fusion done in 2015, too late.
    Ok, I have a lot to offer the right employer, My experience has been in the operating room mostly, all aspects of Periop. I also was a psychiatric RN for 7 years.
    I would love to work from home for a triage, health insurance, counseling, diabetes education, pre operative testing, working collaboratively with anesthesia, surgeons, and of course, patients and their families.
    I feel very strongly about my passions to work in the health care arena, and miss it terribly. Forgot to add, very educated in cardiovascular post operative care, and blood thinners.
    I n want and NEED to share with other health care professionals, and moreover PEOPLE. My love of my life,my granddaughter, is a T1D. She is in nursing school.
    Any advice, guidance, from you would be GREATLY appreciated.
    Best regards,
    Jan Valderas

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    Sara Wilson September 11, 2019 at 3:10 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this informative post!! This is a great article, and something I think needs to be communicated more often. I am living in Ohio and here Sunshine Community is providing jobs for people with disabilities. Hope this information will help. Thanks!!

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    Irene Mosim September 29, 2019 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Dear Donna
    My name is Irene 54yrs old nurse worked as a neonatal nurse for 2yrs suffered stroke in 2017 Nov till this time I haven’t been practicing since but feel stronger now that I can go back to work but finding difficult to get work as I was working as an agency can you advice me what to do

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    Pamela Lighthall July 12, 2020 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Dear Donna
    My name is Pam and I am a 43 yr old nurse whom worked in long term care for 10 years, one day I was bent down improperly to do a treatment on an uncooperative pt. and when I stood up I felt this instant flush feeling, I thought I was going to drop right there on the floor. Thankfully I made it to the hall where thank god there was a very observant CNA whom was in action helping me. I had years later found out I had spondolythesis in the lowest part of my spine, needless to say 8 years later, 2 spine surgeries later, 2 heart surgeries later and now with complicated migrains under control, I live with chronic pain, no one sees it, no one has any idea how bad it is until..oops we need to do another cardiac ablation, I am proud to say that I am not on any narcotics, I used alternate ways to relieve pain the best I can. the point however is my children are 25, 23 and 11 and finding their own ways. Even the 11 yr old has no time for mom, and mom is saying now after all this time what am I to do, in my heart Im still a nurse and I enjoy helping others, its who I am. I often see someone that’s ill and ask, are you seeing a doctor, I see this ..this and this will you please seek medical attention, ive helped some, others Ive annoyed ..lol .. but where do I go from here..in 8 years ive not thought I could ever return to work and I may not be able to stand or sit that long but mentally I need to get myself back into the game. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you for your time.

    • Avatar
      Renee March 7, 2022 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Hello I just read your story and it’s very similar to mine. I’m a 47yo RN. I have spondylolisthesis and have had four back surgeries in attempt to correct it. For unknown reasons, I’m unable to grow bone for a successful fusion. I’ve had chronic pain for 24 years. I’m also looking to return to work after being out for 12 years. Standing for almost any amount of time is off limits for me so I’m exploring work at home options.

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    Elaina Jones, BSN, MPH, RN August 8, 2020 at 2:00 am - Reply

    I am a recently disabled nurse, its my 2nd career and I have 4 years of experience. My experience is 1 year of spinal cord nursing and 3 years of Medical Surgical/Telemetry nursing. My background before I became a nurse is health and safety/environmental health. Since becoming a nurse I have fallen in love with wound care and was making progress toward being able to take the certification exam in wound care. I’ve been diagnosed with lumbar radiculopathy, polyneuropathy and my diabetes had been uncontrolled for a little while which is now corrected and my pain has reduced significantly. I am affected at L3 through S1. I have also been diagnosed with Facet arthrosis. Treatment has included physical therapy, 3 facet joint injections and recently a nerve ablation. During nursing school I was found to have a left femoracetabular impingement and now know my pelvis is slightly tilted and likely contributed to my spinal problems which also include osteoarthritis at the left knee and right/left sacroiliac joints. I have since disability retired from my RN job (I worked for the VA and had 14 other years of experience and was able to retire). I am trying to salvage my career, I am 54 years old and wish to continue working. My question is it possible at all to have a career as a Certified Wound Care Nurse? I am concerned about the possibility of becoming more incapacitated. I am able to ambulate with relative ease most days but still need pain patches and work with a brace. Can you offer any guidance in this area? I’ve considered other options but really love wound care. The tasks I did on the floor which I could no longer deal with were pushing beds/gurneys and I do use the lift equipment and got assistance from others. Is there any way to have a career in wound care and what setting would be best and produce the least amount of physical stress? Thank you for your encouragement.

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    Lisa December 15, 2020 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Hello. I had went to college and finished all my prerequisites with wonderful grades. This was in 2010. I noticed my body changing. I was DX with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 2019. Symptoms started in 2008. My dream was to be a nurse. I am now 56 years old on disability. Stopped working in 2019 as a phlebotomist (which I loved). Worked for a company for 13 years. Had to stop. My feet and legs become weak and numbed along with pain. I use a walker now and occasionally a wheel chair. I don’t want to live like this. What should I do?

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    Sharon Clemons August 24, 2021 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    I’m a RN, MSN in Nurse Executive Administration degree since 2017. I have 15 years experience Med-Surg/Telemetry, with some relief charge nurse experience and 6 months acute care Hemodialysis experience. In March 2020 I injured my neck, mid-back, and low back disc, then tested positive for Covid in March 2021 after I occurred exercise-induced asthma and congestive heart failure. I currently live in West Palm Beach, Fl, and caring for my 11 year old granddaughter. Out of work because the last time I worked on the Covid unit at Palm West Hospital, night shift, I retained so much fluids that I was admitted before I could complete my shift. How can I apply for jobs I have no experience in with my conditions?

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    Aleta Rowe November 25, 2021 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    I am a lpn with Ra. Two hip replacements. I’ve only been out of work for six years. I have a current license. What employment can I get

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    Hollie LaSyone CRC March 7, 2022 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    As a Certified Rehab Counselor, I am looking for nursing tools that might be adaptive for a nurse with a C5 incomplete sci who has limited use of her hands. Can anyone help?

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