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I Completed A Functional Capacity Exam

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A little background for the new folks: I've been disabled for several years from working as an RN in the recovery room (Post Anesthesia Care Unit). Initially I went on disability to have hip surgeries following a car accident, but then POTS/small fiber neuropathy hit hard and it's kept me from returning to work. My main symptoms have been fatigue, hip/lower back pain, burning pain on my feet/face/hands, and other regular symptoms of OI (chest pain, nausea, etc). I got diagnosed at Mayo and got approved for SSDI at a hearing 6 months ago.

Earlier this year, my hubby and I discovered a huge mold problem in our home, cleaned it up over a couple months, and I've had less fatigue since then :lol: . We've been unable to have kids, and my new energy level allowed us to take in a 1-yr-old foster child who we hope to adopt :P . I still have heat and stress intolerance, as well as activity intolerance to varying degrees (depending on the heat and stress). But I've always wanted to get back to working in the PACU and just want to give it a try.

I decided to see if I could help out as a volunteer on my old nursing unit, just to see if I could tolerate being in that environment again. Perhaps I could apply for an on call position once I'm confident that I can handle working there.

I went to my PCP, who was cautiously optimistic about me working again, but who referred me for a Functional Capacity Exam. I contacted my long-term disability insurer who is supportive of my attempt to work (of course :rolleyes: ). So this is what the examiner found:

- I could push 60 pounds, but could only lift/carry 35 pounds sustained (I think it's required that I can lift 40 pounds as a PACU RN)

- I was approved for full-time work at light-medium status, but the examiner qualified this saying that I should start part-time, and might need a day off after an 8-hr shift to get my pain under control.

- I did passed all of the other tests normally, except that my left hand strength is in the <10% range, and my right hand is in the 10-25% range. This is strange because my EMG was normal, but my arms and legs hurt all of the time since POTS hit. I just wonder if this is a neurological issue or deconditioning (of the hands? :blink: ).

- Because my back pain gets worse from sitting too much, she stated I'd need a job with minimal sitting, and only occasional standing (because of the OI). I've always thought I should work as a Park Ranger (in the cool, shady woods, walking all day long... :D ).

If I can't work doing hospital nursing in the PACU, my disability insurer suggested I could try call center nursing or case management. I'm more than willing to do it, but don't know how I'd cope with sitting for such long periods. (and I hadn't completed the FCE yet, which confirms that I shouldn't sit much)

My old nurse manager is working on getting me a couple of hours of volunteer work each week. She's always been supportive of me returning to work, as long as I'm recovered enough.

I'm going to continue to push down this path and I'll either stop when I'm able to work in the PACU again, my body won't allow me to work, or no one will hire me (which is a very good possibility! :rolleyes: )

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Toddm, thank you so much. I'm so thankful for any recovery at all, as I know we all would be.

I just realized why my grip strength is so weak. Isometric handgrip testing used to be used as a measure of some types of dysautonomias because it would reflect excessive sympathetic activity (they now know that the TTT is the best way to test dysautonomia). When I tried to duplicate my handgrip test with my hubby, I realized that doing this caused me to feel as though I'd been up and pushing myself way too hard. I probably actually have a stronger grip than the test reflected but I cannot sustain a grip without feeling the chest pain/pressure and overwhelming fatigue. Anyway, I've answered my own question, I think?!

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Wow - good for you! I only 4 mos. ago tried working as a chef - 4 hours a day for 4 days a week ... it kicks my butt for sure as I get orthostatic lows in b/p after standing about 3 hours. But it beats the sit and stand which is so hard for me -- so it's standing I do. I cannot do nursing any longer because it involves lifting 50 pounds, bending, stooping, crouching, getting out of chairs with no arms, and lots of mental energy on top of it all -- with chronic pain meds .. I'm rendered out of the field. In fact I got fired from my feeble attempt to be a home nurse (my way of hiding my disability or so I thought - my usual practice NICU and PEDS).....I simply couldn't keep up functionally and cognitively. I am intensely aware of the blessing it is to have gone to cooking school many moons ago - yet I would love to be a nurse again. If there ever becomes a nurse position that is a desk job - that is only 4 hours a day - only 2-4 days a week....I am so in. But 8 hours and I'd be in an ER... - let alone 12 hours, let alone a night shift. It takes a very very strong person to be a nurse - EVEN if you are 100% healthy and functional......add the rest of what we deal with and disability becomes an unwelcome yet glaring reality.... Blessings in your endeavors!

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If there ever becomes a nurse position that is a desk job - that is only 4 hours a day - only 2-4 days a week....I am so in.

:lol::lol::lol: I love it! But hey, great for you for pushing yourself and changing careers entirely to accomodate your OI. This attempt at working might be all for naught for me, but I'm giving it my all!

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Kudos to you for trying! I keep wanting to go a similar route....volunteering and then slowly going back to work, maybe PT. Has anyone else dealt with the dilemma of losing your disability if you go back to work and then won't make enough to live? I kind of feel stuck (even though I'm not physically up to working at all yet) because I would lose a chunk of income that's sorely needed.


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