Personal experiences at work

A nurse with MS shares her experience with traveling to work and in the workplace

By Karen B. Nurse


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Hi. My name is Karen, and I wanted to talk to you about working full time and having MS.
I started working full time about five years ago. And I am a nurse, not in MS—the MS world, but I do something that—I take care of fairly critically, fairly ill patients with pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure of the lungs. 

So, how does MS affect me? Well, maybe I’ve been lucky. But most of mine is cognitive. So, things—I forget things. Or I have a hard time with word finding, have a lot of fatigue. And I do have some numbness issues. So, when I look at those challenges, I think, “How do I take care of those when I am working full time?” So, let’s—let’s break ‘em down.

So, for my fatigue, I make sure, if I’m going to be traveling anywhere, any distance—and I talk about distance being an hour or two hours of drive time—I really make sure I get a proper amount of sleep, if I can, the night before. I really try to make sure I have enough water and snacks or meals, to go with me when I’m driving. I try to make, my trip—I break it up. So, if I need to take a break and stretch my legs, then I’ll do that. The other thing that I like to do is, when I get to a place, I may park a little bit further so I can get a little bit of a brisk walk, or take the stairs instead of the elevators, just to help, kind of wake me up and make sure I’m sharp.*

The next thing, again, is numbness. So, with my travel and driving, I can often get numb, in the car. So, I do have to, again, do stretching. I find yoga very helpful, in order to be able to do that. That’s incredibly helpful for—whether you’re driving or you’re sitting for long periods of time at your desk, like I can be, it’s very important. So, those two things, I think, are very helpful.

The next thing for me is cognitive. So, I find I would call myself a critical thinker. And it’s very difficult for me when I have problems with word finding, or I can’t remember directions, or I can’t remember where I parked my car. So, what I really try to do is take a lot of notes. If it’s where I park, because I often have a hard time remembering from different garage to garage, I’ll take a picture of where my car is. And so that way I know, when I come back, this is where—I’m on level P3. If I’m sitting in a PowerPoint presentation, I will take screenshots of certain things so I can go back and refer back to them. I am very much a visual person, so I do like to do a lot of communication that way, whether it be face-to-face or by teleconference. But I think you can get a lot of—take notes while you’re doing it. Make sure you ask that, you know, things be summarized. So, “Am I understanding what you’re saying?” Or, “If I’m hearing you correctly, this is…?” So I think those are really good things.

*Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before changing your routine as individual experiences may vary.
Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine or if you feel any numbness.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having any concerns with memory or cognition.


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