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Do you know of any organizations that are sympathetic to hiring people with disabilities?

Friday January 4, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

I have a motor disability, which causes chronic pain. I need information about the quickest way to receive employment assistance. My injury began more than 20 years ago and the pain has worsened over time — requiring strong daily medication. Fortunately, for the past 16 years I have been able to find suitable employment in the home health industry and make a good living. This industry has catered to my physical handicap until just recently. It is no longer a suitable and viable occupation choice for me. I am, as it is referred to commonly, "burned out" and the physical demands of this kind of job are too much for me now.

I have tried local assistance to find suitable employment in which I am not required to stand or sit for prolonged periods of time, such as case management. I am continually refused for the same reasons. I just do not have adequate skills or experience to take me to an alternative profession.

I must make a career change, but many of the less physically demanding career choices I have pursued have led to the same end result. I am told I am not a suitable candidate because I have not had recent clinical or hospital experience and my skills are rusty.

I do not have a BSN and am not entirely sure if a nurse refresher course is a good idea. I must and want to work to support myself. I was advised to apply for temporary disability until I could figure out a new career path or professional options, but disability was denied.

I know this is a long question, but I thought knowing my background may be helpful. I am divorced, living on unemployment and really getting by through the help of my parents and the grace of God. I do not want a handout, just a viable solution and advice, so I can remain independent.

Do you know of any organizations that are sympathetic to hiring people with disabilities? I have interviewed and applied for everything, but it seems I am viewed as not physically impaired enough to receive any assistance. I am running out of options. I am not one to quit or give up, but I am quite depressed at my bleak future. Can you please offer some assistance by advising me where else I can go for help?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Calandra,

Your situation is unfortunate and must be very frustrating, especially since you have tried so hard to find a position that you can do, despite your disability. You did not mention what organizations you contacted to get help with the situation, but there is one that has been established by nurses with disabilities and it may be of great help to you.

The National Organization of Nurses With Disabilities (www.nond.org) would be a good contact. This organization has many objectives, but one is to "connect with local community in cooperative experiences to promote inclusion of students and nurses with disabilities in the nursing profession." The website includes a “Job Board” tab.

You also may want to review one of the U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Disability Employment Policy publications, "Nurses with Disabilities" (part of the Job Accommodation Network's Accommodation and Compliance Series). You can read and download the entire document at www.askjan.org/media/nurses.html.

This document might help if you are not being accommodated in the workplace as you should be under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney who works with disabled workers would help evaluate this legal issue for you so you can make choices, if applicable, on how to proceed with employers who have not offered you a position for which you were qualified. The attorney you select also can help you with any disability entitlement programs you may be eligible for.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.