Meet Nancy: Working Long Hours, Dealing with Hip Pain
Background: Nancy is a 55-year-old woman with a full- time, high pressure job that requires her to spend most of the workday seated at a standard computer workstation. Given the nature of her job, she may spend upwards of ten hours seated at her desk with few opportunities for breaks.
Five years ago, she was diagnosed with arthritis in her left hip that has gradually worsened. In the years following the diagnosis, she found that therapy, medication, a basic ergonomic assessment at work, and exercising a few times per week was enough to manage her symptoms.
Difficulty: Unfortunately, a few years later the pain and range of movement of her left hip worsened, and the previous strategies were no longer sufficient. Because she had less energy after her long workday, Nancy stopped going to the gym. She also missed half-days from work every other week. She was referred to a surgeon who suggested an immediate treatment option, but also noted that she would likely require a hip replacement in a few years given her symptoms and loss of function. In addition to the risks of surgery, she would need to be on a medical leave from work for several months and would need to have help at home.
Referral: Nancy contacted Human Resources (HR), not only to determine what changes could be made to her work area in the hope of delaying surgery for as long as possible, but also to warn them that she may need to reduce her work hours permanently and/or take a medical leave given the severity of her symptoms at the time. HR suggested she be seen by an OT for a job accommodation assessment. The HR specialist knew that an OT would be able to consider Nancy’s medical diagnoses, collaborate with her health team, and provide recommendations to better accommodate Nancy’s medical condition, now and in the long term. Nancy agreed to try this assessment. Nancy found an OT, with an interest in working life, by using the SAOT Search for an OT search feature.
How Occupational Therapy assisted Nancy:
- Gathered relevant medical and rehabilitation information.
- Attended the worksite to review the work area.
- Provided immediate adjustments and resources based on the supports and changes possible at the time.
- Discussed options with Nancy to further improve her work area.
- Worked with Nancy to create a long-term plan given her diagnosis, symptoms, and work demands.
- Consulted with Nancy’s employer to make sure that the recommendations fell within what the employer could provide.
- Provided a report with recommendations to HR, discussing only Nancy’s symptoms and not her medical diagnosis, provided detailed recommendations to improve her function in the workplace, and referenced specific products that could be found through the employers’ preferred vendor when possible or a list of one to three vendors from where the aids could easily be purchased.
Outcome for Nancy:
- Nancy was able to maintain the changes made during the worksite assessment.
- Modification of Nancy’s work hours helped her to better manage her symptoms until she was fully accommodated in the workplace and allowed her to attend the rehabilitation she needed.
- Employer provided her with an improved chair and height adjustable workstation as soon as possible. She was then fully accomodated at work.
- Nancy returned to full work hours and duties within a few weeks of being fully accommodated at work.
- The OT followed up with Nancy once her new equipment was in place to ensure proper set up and use and gave Nancy a resource to check, as needed, that her set up was appropriate for her (i.e., proper height of her chair)
- Once accommodated fully, Nancy reported having more energy during work and outside of work. She was better able to follow the exercise program recommended by physical therapy and orthopedic surgeon.
- One year later Nancy reported that she maintained her activity level since receipt of chair and new desk and her orthopedic surgeon advised that they could postpone any further discussion of a hip replacement given the reduction of her symptoms and improved function.