What does my workplace need to know about my condition?

What does my workplace need to know about my condition?

Many adults with AFib have invested thousands of hours working to build a career, and when an unpredictable chronic condition enters the landscape, it’s normal to question how your work will be affected. You may be wondering if you should alert your boss and co-workers or if you should keep it to yourself. Here are some of the considerations.

How does my AFib affect my ability to do my job?

Initially, your AFib will likely require new prescriptions and a few appointments with a cardiologist or electrophysiologist. For some, the first episodes of atrial fibrillation involve trips to the emergency room, although your healthcare provider may encourage you to call their office prior to visiting an ER. They may be able to help you at their office instead, but even so, sudden departures from work are likely to be difficult to conceal from your employer. If you decide to disclose your condition to a few people at work, you may discover a surprising source of support and encouragement.

The Impact of AFib at Work

You may want to evaluate how your symptoms may already be affecting your job performance, and how your performance might change if your AFib becomes more successfully managed. Talking with your doctor can help you understand the amount of time you’ll be away from work during your initial diagnostic and treatment planning.

If an emergency were to occur at work, would you want your co-workers or employer to have some background information?

Although AFib symptoms do not automatically create an emergency situation, you may be admitted to the hospital to try to get your heart back in rhythm or possibly for observation if a heart rhythm medication has been ordered for you. Additionally, none of us are immune to unexpected medical events. For example, if you have recently started an anticoagulant medication (or “blood thinner”) and have a bleeding injury while on the job, would it make a difference if your personnel department or co-workers knew that your blood loss might be greater than normal? Would you want them to be informed about the signs of stroke so they might respond quickly if needed? If someone from your office can relay your diagnosis to paramedics, should they be called, you will be more likely to get the kind of help you need.

How much work will you miss?

For some people, the onset of AFib causes them to miss quite a bit of work. Once you’ve started the process, you may want to discuss your work needs with your doctor and ask him or her for help in making your plan. After you gain a sense of the initial amount of work time you may miss, would you rather provide a brief explanation to your coworkers about why you may need to schedule an appointment? Or let them know you’ve found a likely reason for the fatigue you’ve been feeling lately and that you’ll be pursuing treatment to improve the situation?

How might your co-workers feel if they learn about your heart condition?

Depending on your work environment, your colleagues or co-workers may offer their support and encouragement along with well-wishes for a successful treatment plan. If your industry is particularly competitive, or driven by performance rather than people and relationships, you may have to weigh that choice against the odds of what might happen if your co-workers could not see past your condition.

What will you do if symptoms persist or worsen?

Although we all hope to find the fastest possible cure, or at least a treatment that works, for some people AFib becomes a persistent problem. Many Americans are working harder and longer and our workforce and population are aging. If you work for a company with more than 50 employees, chances are good that you’re not the only person managing a chronic condition.

If needed, consider the ramifications of talking with your employer about a reduced schedule or a temporary leave.

A lot of people are understandably anxious about disclosing their needs for accommodating a chronic condition, but an inquiry may reveal that your work’s policies allow for some modifications of your work day, your schedule, or even a leave of absence. You may want to investigate your company’s policies for a healthy workforce, and learn more about options covered by the Family Medical Leave Act if you’re in the United States. If not, there may be a similar program that covers your needs. People who stay at work part time, or who gradually return to work after a procedure or leave of absence, tend to feel more positive about their recovery and ability to manage their condition.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States, you may also be provided with some protection if your ability to do your job can be improved with some modifications. Likewise, it is possible that you may qualify for disability benefits, depending on the number of co-existing conditions and the significance of the limitations caused by your conditions. If your case is complex, many disability attorneys only charge if they successfully negotiate benefit payments for you.

There are likely to be pros and cons of disclosing your condition. We invite you to discuss this topic further with other people who may be navigating some of the same hurdles you are.

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