Is RA my career?
Karen Tsui (Physiotherapist, Advanced Clinician Practitioner in Arthritis Care)
Are you concerned about the impact of RA on your career? Explore some of the key points to consider before you make any drastic changes to your career.
When you are diagnosed with RA, you may have to make a lot of changes to your life: one of them may be your work situation. Deciding how to keep working once diagnosed with RA will depend on the severity of your condition. With the right support from your rheumatologist, specialist nurse, occupational and physiotherapist, and/or vocational counsellor, help is available to ensure you can make the best of your working situation. Needing help is normal if you are living with RA. At some point every person living with RA has felt overwhelmed by their condition.
When reviewing the impact of RA on your work, consider the following questions:
- Why do I want to work?
- Do I need to work?
- What treatment options are available to help manage my condition?
- What adjustments to my job will I have to make?
- Is my work going to clash or complement my RA?
There are strong benefits to staying in work. Many people with RA express that when they stay in work they have an increased sense of purpose, self-esteem and fewer feelings of depression or isolation, thanks to the social interactions and relationships formed in their jobs.1
Though employees with a disability are protected against unlawful discrimination, people with RA often express an understandable fear of losing their job. If you are unsure about whether or not to disclose your RA to your employer, please seek advice from your local patient group, or a professional occupational therapist or vocational counsellor.
In the instance that you are disclosing your RA to your employer, it will be important to ensure that you are not subjected to any unfair discrimination.
If you decide that the best option is to reduce or stop working, there are many ways to keep your morale and sense of purpose high. Taking on volunteer work is a good option to help maintain social interactions and meet new people, while making a positive contribution to society. Taking up a hobby, activity, or a new project is also a great way to keep you stimulated and maintain structure to the day.
RA affects people differently. Some are more severely affected than others, and therefore weighing up the pros and cons regarding work is a very personal matter.
Support is available for you, whether you decide to continue working or leave the workplace. If you are concerned about how your RA is affecting your career, do speak about it with your local patient group, or professional occupational therapist or vocational counsellor.
For more advice and information about coping with RA at work, please visit the Arthritis Alliance of Canada at http://www.arthritisalliance.ca/en/ or the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance at http://arthritispatient.ca/workplace-tools-from-the-arthritis-society/.