Is it ok to say no?

I'm a children's Occupational Therapist, a job which involves lots of getting down on the floor with kids, or sitting on very small chairs. I help children develop their motor skills, which involves hopping, jumping etc. All the things which having inflammatory arthritis in your joints make it nigh on impossible to do. I have AS, and take weekly Benepali injections, and 60mg daily etoricoxib.

After a 6 month period of sick leave I returned to work last July. My manager and colleagues have been so supportive up till now, however I'm reaching a stage where I feel that people are beginning to forget that I'm still dealing with pain every day, mostly in my knees (mostly right knee) and lower back. I'm trying not to complain at work, and just getting on with it to the best of my ability. Maybe I've not done myself any favors by doing this however.

A few days ago I started feeling quite alot of pain in my left ankle, and I'm wondering if it's progressed into that joint. So I'm back to a point where I can't really kneel on the ground. I have a clinic coming up on Tuesday where there is a baby coming in for an assessment, and I know that I might be expected to take him onto my caseload for possible ongoing treatment sessions. I just wondered if I am within my rights to ask if my colleague would take on the baby, and I would take on the school age child who is also coming into clinic that day, who won't need as much floor based work? Or should I just get on with it? Feel like I'm being a bit pathetic, but really don't want to make my knee, ankle and back any worse.

Due a review with Occupational Health consultant in a couple of weeks time, and haven't seen occ health physio for a few months now. Just wondered what people's views are before my clinic on Tuesday?

26 Replies

  • Be kind to yourself! Sounds as if you need to be more open with your colleagues but I know how hard it is to ask for support. They probably think you're coping because you don't complain. Can you have a chat with your manager?

  • My manager has been great, I regularly meet with her to discuss how things are going. She doesn't know about my ankle yet. I've been very honest with her about everything.

  • Hi mhairi

    I'm a children and families social worker in a busy city locality/ practice team and I know that following my occupational health assessment, in their recommendations, in order to support me at work and to do my job effectively , that my case load was to be reduced, geography ( in terms of clients) was to be considered etc. I would flag this up at your assessment and discuss this. It all falls under the umbrella of reasonable adjustments.

    Wishing you the best of luck going forward .


  • I'm a bit nervous about saying anything to the consultant to be honest with you. At my last review with the Occupational Health consultant, he said "at some point we will probably need to have a conversation around whether this is the right job for you to be in for the next 20 years". I love my job and my colleagues, and would hate to have to leave my post, so think that's part of the reason I've been playing down my symptoms to my colleagues.

  • Yeah, I totally get why you'd feel that way. However, what's the alternative ? You go on as you are now and become extremely sore to the point you can't continue and maybe need to go off sick.

    Your work has a duty of care and you are covered re disability act.

    You're not shirking your duties mhairi , you're adapting things in order to continue providing the best service for your clients - OH will see and understand this. I think the best way forward is to be honest and allow them to support you appropriately. I think you'll be ok.

    Good luck x

  • You're right Marie. It's good to be reminded of all that. I definitely don't want to go off sick again. I couldn't handle having all that time off to mope about and dwell on things! Just made me feel worse! I have a really good relationship with my occupational health physio. Think I'll phone her on Monday to ask her advice. She might be able to back me up with my manager, although already know she'll be supportive. Thank you. x

  • Keep Your chin up


  • Hi- although we do different jobs, we have a similar dilemma regarding getting down low and jumping around etc. I would let them know what you can do and talk it out at OH. I went to an OH last week, funny enough, she was very nice. Work are obliged to accommodate you - OH will advise you. If you're worried about taking on the baby but not so about taking on the older child - say that and look after yourself.

  • Part of our motor skills assessment involves observing how well a child can coordinate hopping and jumping, and since I returned to work I have been asking my colleagues if they can demonstrate that part of the assessment, so it'll probably not come as a surprise if I ask if they can take on the baby. I'm kind of hoping they'll offer first so I can avoid the awkwardness of me having to make that request. I'm such an independent person that I hate having to ask for help.

  • I thought as much...but we can still be independent; we just have to be honest with ourselves and to our bodies. Mind you - have you ever heard of the expression: pot, kettle black? 😊 Suffice to say: none of this is easy but if we want to do the best for our employers, we have to keep ourselves well in body and mind. My colleagues, as lovely as they are, haven't got a 'scooby' what I can and can't, should or shouldn't be doing! It's up to me, really, to swallow the pride and say ☺

  • Know what you mean but it's so hard sometimes isn't it!

  • have u considered a short video of cartoon type character to show in sequences , asking ' can u copy 'little miss' or who/whatever it is. works with nusery age kids.x

  • You really should arrange for somebody else to take on the baby... ..presumably you will have to lift him/her...I know I won't even attempt to lift any child these days as my wrists just go floppy & I can't be sure I can "hang on".I'm sure your colleagues will be happy to help you in any way possible.

    If you continue to push yourself you will possibly end up having to leave a job you love . Try to explain your dilemma to OH...I'm sure they will want to keep a dedicated therapist like yourself & will find a way that you can pull your weight, but not damage your health in the process.

  • At work the kids, and particularly younger ones, can be so unpredictable and move about all the time, so you need to be able to move quickly and adjust your position on the floor in response to whatever they do. At least with older kids, most of the time they are able to listen to and respond to verbal requests, and will sit at a table. That's why I find them a bit easier to work with whilst I'm not feeling so great myself. It's hard to get the balance of letting people know how you are feeling without feeling like you are moaning. I guess I just need to speak up a bit more. I'm always scared I'm going to get upset in front of people when I talk about it though, so tend to stay quiet. Not very helpful I know.....

  • Why is that with us? I'm usually fine until I mention anything about how I feel (if someone asks specifically) or what I have to take (meds-wise) or how I got on at an appointment...and this week: why I can't go on the school trip to Chessington "It'll be fun; a day off school!" Not fun-for me anyhow! Im like an old watering can: leaking everywhere!😭

  • That's exactly how I feel. I feel as though I cry at the drop of a hat when I'm talking about how this disease affects me. I don't think people realise just how much of an effect it can have on you, physically and emotionally. The only way I've worked out that I won't cry is by not talking about it, I'm fine as long as I just get on with it. But that's a total catch 22 situation because then people just assume I'm fine. It's hard to know what to do for the best. I can totally empathise with your situation Moomin8. x

  • Do you have a colleague that you are particularly close to & to whom you could confide your concerns?

    Bottom line Mhairi you have to consider your health first so that you can continue doing a job you trained for & now may be threatened if you don't speak up.

    I know how difficult it is to open up about how RA can affect everyday life...I was diagnosed just as I retired so I was able to take it easy & cope with all the pain & drugs that made me ill without the threat of losing my job.......every day I am grateful I didn't have to soldier on.

    I do hope your colleagues rally round & support you..but you will have to go half way & be honest about how difficult you are finding dealing with the floor exercises & the jumping around that jars your joints.

    Hope all goes well for you.

  • The irony is that we are a really close team, we have a really good laugh and probably share too much about our personal lives with each other! But for some reason I've clammed up about this. I think it's because I don't want to bring down the good mood of the team. It's a real tonic to work with them. We laugh so much. I do talk about it sometimes, and I usually end up in tears and feel really embarrassed afterwards.

    I am close to one colleague in particular, so will talk to her about it sometimes. Her husband was diagnosed with AS 7 years ago, so has a good idea of what I'm going through.

  • I think a lot of the problem is on the whole RA is still regarded by the general public as a " few aches & pain" so we should be able to " just get on with it"...& we meekly do just that.

    I broke my arm recently...just a simple fracture...out of plaster in 6 weeks & I got more sympathy for that than I have had in 20 years of RA.

    But think about it.....most people like to help...I'm sure if you could help a colleague you no tears, just tell it how it is, you love your job, you want to do it to the best if your ability, but for now you need a bit of slack until you come to terms with how you are going to deal with it.......which you will, once you stop trying to do too much.

    So nice & calmy things will sort themselves out!

  • AC - aka as WW - Wise[not Wonder] Woman - well said x

  • I dunno about that! I quite fancy whizzing around in tights & stilettos!

    Maybe not ,,,,,might frighten the horses!

  • If you don't tell them they can't do anything to help you darling. I am sure you love your job,but it is time to revalue how you want your career to go. Do you want to stay where you are or would a clerical job in your dept. be better for you. Could you oversee the dept. and only take on some cases which interest you more than others. I know you have favourites and i know some cases pull the heart strings more than others,so if you were to oversee things it might be better for you darling. Big hugs from me.xxxx

  • Hi there , im sorry you are going through thiis as it is difficult enough dealing with pain let alone work . Your work is aware of your diagnosis and should be able to adjust your type of workload accordingly. However being realistic it is maybe worth planning for the future. Can you take on more of a teaching role as you do work in a very specialised area and your skills are very important. Occupational health should be able to recommend some of these things to your managers. I hope you are able work out a suitable balance, best wishes xx🌸🌸

  • I used to work on a ward, when my ra got too sore I requested kneeling pads. The type you use in the garden. Because you could wipe them this disinfectant wipes it was agreed every one on the ward would have access to them.

    I'm sure you could get these and perhaps a small lightweight stool/chair to help you as well. It made a big difference to me and my colleagues.

  • Feel for you but be as honest as you csn with work and Occy Health. It's not easy but you have to think of yourself and the long term. I'm really struggling with work too. Only 4 years to retirement though

  • sorry, on;y catching up now, but you have to put yourself 1st on this and however much you care learn the mantra 'it's just a job'. i know that's a very hard lesson to learn but so is surviving - BIG HUG xx

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