Where can an RN with wrist pain issues work?

By | 2021-05-28T17:19:30-04:00 May 6th, 2015|0 Comments

Dear Donna,

I broke both wrists January 2015 trying to ice skate. I am 47 years old and female.  Long story short, after multiple treatments, tests, doctors visits, complications and therapies, I’m still have wrist pain in the right wrist, but I can’t even tell the left wrist was ever broken.

I have been on short-term disability since the injury. I was terminated due to restrictions placed after the injury. A month ago, the physician filled out short-term disability forms, reflecting restrictions of my right upper extremity, of not being able to lift more than two pounds. Disability determined I could not return to work, so here I am six weeks later, with the orthopedic doctor having to fill out more paperwork for short-term disability. He noted I can return to work six weeks after my April 21 appointment. Two weekends ago, I had to go to the ED, due to swelling. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

I have attended occupational therapy twice weekly since February, and do home exercises. My range of motion has greatly improved, but it’s not 100%. I still have pain. I feel as though my wrist is a malunion. Then add the instability. I am very concerned how I will ever return to work as an RN in med/surg or ortho floor nursing.

I don’t know how at this point I could perform the functions needed. I have not applied for my current state license. I’m weak, right-sided, with muscle atrophy.

I am concerned about my career, how to return to work and where. Would the Disability Act help me? I don’t know what to do if my doctor says I can return to work. I want a second opinion, as I don’t see how you can work with a malunion.

Needs Advice on Where to Turn

Dear Needs Advice on Where to Turn,

There are several issues here that need to be addressed. First and foremost, I urge you to contact a nurse attorney for several reasons. She can help, support and advise you on many of the issues you are facing. I am concerned you were terminated from your last job because of a disability. You do have certain rights under the Americans With Disability Act, and a nurse attorney can advise you of those. Plus, from the details you provided about your medical treatment — which have been edited here for length and confidentiality reasons — you might have the basis of some malpractice claims.

Some people don’t consult an attorney because they assume they can’t afford it. But many attorneys will have an initial complimentary consultation with you to hear the details of your situation. They will then let you know if you have a case, and if so, how they can help. Find a nurse attorney by asking people you know, getting a referral from your state chapter of the American Nurses Association, whether or not you are a member, or through The American Association of Nurse Attorneys.

Regarding your career, don’t let your nursing license lapse regardless of your stuation. Keep it active as long as possible. Even if you have to convert to inactive status — every state is different regarding this — that is better than letting it lapse altogether.

And regarding future job opportunities, there is little point in thinking about direct patient care options with the challenges you have. But there are many, many other challenging and rewarding opportunities to do nursing work with the use of the phone and a computer including case management, telephone triage, remote monitoring of ICU patients and drug advice line nurse to name a few.

If you are on state disability, you should have access to a disability vocational counselor. They will often pay for you to attend courses related to new specialties where you may be able to work.

Keep your license active, explore nontraditional career opportunities for the future, and consult a nurse attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and get the best medical treatment you can.

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.

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