In sickness and in health

How the RCN can support you to stay in work

Having a medical condition doesn’t mean you can’t be a great nurse, but it’s important to focus on your strengths, while recognising your limitations. This is Ana’s story

When Ana Oliveira was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy (MD) it was a huge shock.  Her role as a band 5 respiratory nurse in Lane Fox Remeo, the UK’s first purpose-built weaning and home ventilation centre was a demanding job, with long shifts. The pain she was now experiencing meant she simply couldn’t do the work she needed to. 

Ana was frightened. She didn’t know what to expect and she was worried she’d lose her job. But Ana had protection under the Equality Act and a forward-thinking and proactive management team. They worked with the RCN to get the best outcome for Ana, the team she worked with, and the patients she cared for.

Talk to your manager and get an appointment with occupational health

Ana now works as a respiratory nurse and activities co-ordinator. It’s a role that makes best use of her skills. She does activities with patients, and, as many of her patients also have MD, she can put herself in their shoes and think about what she can do to help them. She also works in the office on patient discharge, unit audits and making improvements.

Ana says it’s great to keep working in this new role and advises others in similar situations not to be afraid. “Talk to your manager and get an appointment with occupational health. I didn’t know what I could do but they were really helpful and referred me to the Access to Work programme,” she says.

“It’s important to think outside the box,” says Head of Nursing Lane Fox Remeo, Michelle Freeman. “Ana has a huge amount of knowledge and we didn’t want to lose her, so we looked at her skillset and what Ana could do to support the senior team.

“She’s doing a fantastic job in risk assessment, COSH management, audit and more. It’s still early days but Ana’s new role has made such a difference to supporting everyone in the clinical team. It’s good for everyone to see this isn’t the end of her career as a nurse.”

It's good for everyone to see this isn't the end of Ana's career as a nurse  

Ana and Michelle got support from RCN Officer Catherine Garner, who helped them navigate the situation and identify what new opportunities there might be for Ana. “Partnership working is about looking at things from the other point of view,” says Catherine.

“The RCN is here to make sure members get the best possible representation and outcome. I’m aware of constraints from a manager’s point of view but sometimes we need to look at things in a different way.

“In this case the managers really cared about what was right for Ana. They wanted to make sure whatever situation was suggested was positive and safe for her – it meant having difficult conversations, but it’s been a good outcome.” 

Further information

Pictures by John Behets

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