One Teacher's Victory Over Injury

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Todd Meier

For an employee faced with a surgery, the last thing he or she often thinks of is how the recovery period will impact his or her work life. For example, if a long-term recovery period is expected, returning to work quickly isn’t necessarily an obvious option, even though the employee may be eager to return to his or her daily routine. However, with some cases, the right workplace accommodations can make going back to work — even sooner than expected — very possible.

Take, for instance, an English teacher who had to take a leave of absence to have a back operation. According to Spine-health’s community forum,1 past and recovering individuals say the level of surgery, whether or not it’s successful, and the physical demands of one’s job all play a part in how long a person will be out of work. A doctor could recommend anywhere from two months to one year.

Many patients are required to stay home longer, or choose to take more time off of work because of the common restrictions and aftermath following surgery. Basic moves or simple manual labor such as lifting, bending or twisting can endanger proper healing and also can be extremely painful, long after typical side effects have ceased. Individuals sometimes feel that going back to work isn’t even an option.

This teacher was very eager to get back to her students and her job, so a vocational counselor stepped in to help and get the return-to-work process started. The counselor negotiated with the school district and asked that the teacher be provided a few job modifications to allow for her safe and comfortable return. Those requests included:

  • A student aide in the classroom to help her out with various tasks
  • Assistance to and from her vehicle
  • A data projector that allowed her to sit while teaching her class
  • An ergonomic chair that offered her proper support
  • Laptop and book desk slants to prevent her from looking downward
  • Forearm supports to reduce any discomfort

The counselor also made sure the equipment was delivered to the classroom and helped with setting everything up and re-arranging as needed.

These modifications allowed the teacher to complete a full semester of teaching and return to a career she loves. Plus, the school was able to get its employee back instead of spending significant time and money to hire someone new. By re-imagining the workplace, and removing barriers big and small, one teacher was able to triumph over her injury. Little things really can go a long way.


1 Back Surgery and Neck Surgery Forum. Available at: Accessed September 14, 2011.


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