Simple tips to help prepare yourself for returning to work or determine if you should be employed soon Part 1 of 2

08 Jun

Everyone would like to return to a higher level of functioning and feel as though they are contributing to society.  Some people more then others, but I doubt most people want to just sit and waste away!  Here are some things to consider before returning to work after TBI, chronic illness, mental illness or any other circumstances you’ve endured and are considering a return-to-work status.

The following are recommendations that are helpful to accomplish your new goals. Some suggestions can be used as short-term goals, and others as your long-term goal.  These tips will help you work toward and achieve what you set out to accomplish.

Time Management

Time Management (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Before you get to the phase of even filling out applications and going through interviews think long and hard about who you are, what you want to do, what you can do, how you will handle different situations, and your ultimate short term and long term goals for employment.  Know all your limitations and work around what you know you need to deal with and how you will best deal with your limitations.

Commit to Writing & Make a list of each of the following:

  • Who you are
  • What you want to do
  • What you can do
  • How to handle difficult situations
  • Short-term and Long-term life goals
  • Read, Internalize and Believe (RIB)

Take mental and written notes. Start by making a list of all your limitations.  Another list of all your strengths.  Focus on your strengths! The list of your strengths should equal approximately 5 strengths for every limitation.  If you don’t come up with this, take your time and think about it.  You will find at least that many strengths. The more strengths the better.

On your list of limitations write five strengths that help you overcome that particular limitation. You will be trying to offset any shortcomings you have.  Everyone has a balance, but you just need better insight into how you can find your balance.  Matching a limitation with your strengths will help you understand where you are in your life and how you can accomplish your goals.  You will say I am limited by this, but I can still do this because I am….this!


Limitation:  1.) Cannot return to patient care as registered nurse

Strengths: 1.) Maintained my nursing licensed. 2.) Excellent typist. 3.) Secretarial experience. 4.) Thinks clearly with decreased stimuli environment. 5.) Knowledgeable in diverse areas of healthcare. 6.) Rehabilitation experience. 7.) Compassionate and genuine caring person.

Short Term Goals (STG): Begin website to help others. Learn WordPress. Become familiar with what helps to manipulate the website. Get help from the Apple Store weekly with questions I note to learn the computer weekly one-to-one sessions.

Long Term Goal (LTG): Offer a free healthcare service by an effective website to help others self rehabilitate from TBI, chronic illness, mental illness, aging population and other areas of interest to help others manage their healthcare needs plus more!

Summary: I cannot do hands on patient care as a nurse, but I am still a good nurse. I’ve been a secretary for 3 years, worked with computers for 13 years before nursing and I remain a good typist.  These experiences combined with my nursing can help me accomplish my long term goal.  I can think clearly in a quiet environment without distractions for short periods of time. I can write at intervals conducive to my limitations and situation. I can still help people in many ways.

My Year in Lists

List the following:

  • Limitations
  • Strengths
  • Match at least five Strengths with every Limitation
  • Read, Internalize and Believe (RIB)

Read these repeatedly.  Memorize and internalize!  You need to believe that you can succeed by matching your limitations with strengths.  When you do believe it, your employer  will give you an opportunity to prove it.  Next step would be to organize everything and write down all your questions.  Think through every scenario possible so you are not only prepared to answer spontaneously at your interview but you will recall how to react in certain situations. Memory, memory, memory…work on it before you go to interviews.  BE PREPARED! There is significant preparation returning to work after a lengthy illness or injury.

Before filling out applications and interviewing do your self-reflection and create a blueprint of the “new you”.  You have a great deal of homework before re-entering the work-force.  You will be the one under the microscope and you want success…not a disaster.  It will take time and effort, but you will endure and become successful.  This time success will mean much more then it ever did before.  You realize how fragile life is and you have learned by your experiences giving you strengths others may not have.  Don’t focus on your weaknesses….focus on your strengths!  Be real and true to yourself.

How do you know when you are ready to return to work

Cover of "Returning to Work: A Guide to R...

  • Can you stay focused without breaks, rest or naps?
  • How are you with time management?
  • Can you complete tasks at home without losing your place?
  • Can you become distracted and return to the task at hand without help?
  • Do you need frequent rest and naps, or can you without rest?
  • Do you need help with following through with simple tasks?
  • Do you need constant redirection?
  • Can you work independently?
  • Do you feel you can ask questions or know what questions to ask?

If you have answered these questions and realize you are not quite ready to go back to work, keep setting yourself positive goals.  List your short term goals.  It will take time, and you will find ways to achieve your long term goals. In the meantime, see if there is somewhere you can volunteer in your community for a couple hours a week.

I repeatedly asked my healthcare professionals about returning to work and this is the reply I received: “If you can find a position that let’s you take a break whenever you need it you can return to work.”  “As long as it’s a position flat on your back.”  I don’t think there are any respectable employment opportunities flat on your back!  “Find a place that will let you come and go as you please.”  “If you can work in warm water aquatics and stay in the water while doing your job you might be able to work.”  Now, what types of comments are these.  None of these comments are helpful, but I guess it still gets the point across.  Do not look to your healthcare professional for the answers.  Only you have the answers.  You know yourself better then anyone else.

The next post will give ideas on planning, organizing and practicing (POP). Preparing for the interview.  Being true to yourself and what to do and what not to reveal in your place of employment.


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6 responses to “Simple tips to help prepare yourself for returning to work or determine if you should be employed soon Part 1 of 2

  1. Three Well Beings

    June 9, 2012 at 2:31 am

    You are such a resource! This is great. I have previously mentioned that my initial reading of your blog coincided with concerns I have for a friend suffering TBI. I will be saving this post for her. Right now she isn’t far enough along in her progress to even think about returning to work and she struggles a lot trying to hold onto too much information, but there will be a time when this post will be most welcome! You really have a lot of experience and you share it so openly! Thank you! Debra

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      June 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      Debra, I’m delighted to receive such wonderful compliments. I’m sorry to hear about your friend and it is great you are there for this long lonely journey! It’s people like you that help those with brain injury recover to their optimal level. Even with your best friend at your side, it still feels very much a lonely journey. When all my friends were working on their career paths, I was at home struggling to breathe and improve. I’m sure your friend will feel the same. At the same time she’ll be grateful she has you as a friend. Take care and stay safe, Edie

  2. heidirmoore

    June 9, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Edie–this is just a fantastic post. I know it will help lots of people! I found the section that listed the criteria for how you know you’re ready to go back to work really helpful. I find myself having some good days….surrounded by some really bad ones….but on those good days, I feel really guilty that I am not using my considerable skills in writing, editing, and teaching to do something to help in some way. I think you can relate. So using that list as a mini test helped me to know that I’m not ready, and I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors (including me) to start working right now. I do like the idea of considering the blog to be work. I should think of my own blog that way.

    But your blog is really serious business. Those health care “professionals” you asked for help about ideas for working were not good, supportive sources. It seems to me that someone with your set of symptoms fantastic knowledge could be doing some kind of medical writing, in addition to the important work you do on this blog. You could do it on your own schedule, and from your bedroom if you wanted. It’s something to research, anyway. I say Brava, Edie. You rock!!

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      June 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

      Thank you Heidi. I wasn’t sure if this post would be helpful, but I also know there are so many levels to recovery and it fluctuates so much! I’m sure you know how it feels to spend so much time and energy on education and not to be able to use it the way we planned. As long as we’re not just wasting away…that’s always a good thing!

  3. wendy

    June 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    As always, you give excellent advice.
    I’m sure many will benefit for it, nice a precise advice to help people get back in the work force when they are able.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be a be able to return to work, and that’s ok. Well, I said Unfortunately, but not really. The other day I was talking with my husband about taking stock of things I’m grateful for and how I hadn’t been doing that lately. He said, so what are you grateful for right now. I said, that I don’t have to go to work. (I woke up with vertigo and had a bad headache, I was very grateful I didn’t have to get up and go to work that day. I hadn’t thought about how grateful I would be most days for not having to go to a job, or even think about that. I hate to disappoint people, and there are just so many days I simply can’t do it. I don’t think I’d be a very good employee any more, and my work ethic is too high to do a so so job.)

    I simply have found ways to feel more satisfied and contribute to society in different ways, where no one expects me to meet a deadline, or be present at a work place.

    as you and I have both said before….life may not be what we planned, so we’ll just change our plan.

    great days to you

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      June 12, 2012 at 8:27 am

      You share an important way to handle “not returning to work”…at least not yet for so many! It’s always such a struggle and puts so much stress on one. When one is dealing with so many symptoms daily…it truly is an impossibility. It’s only when symptoms become predictable and manageable that it’s a feasible task and can become part of one’s life again. One needs to always consider what other employees will tolerate…and it’s not much in the work world! Thanks for pointing out again may not be what we planned, so we’ll just change our plan! More beautiful days & always to come, Edie


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