Dealing with over-protective colleagues after a heart attack - Andrew's story

Andrew Rae from Auchterderran, Fife

Andrew Rae, from Auchterderran, Fife, has been a nurse for 30 years. Yet after his heart attack, he still lacked information.

“A month after my heart attack, my GP said I could go back to work. But at cardiac rehab they told me that, because of the type of heart attack, I should wait. It was confusing.”

In the end, he had six months off work and felt apprehensive about going back. “My ward had moved and the new one was twice the length, so it was more physically challenging,” he says.

It was definitely helpful to have a phased return

Andrew, then 47, who specialises in medicine for the elderly, met with his managers and the HR department and had a phased return to work over eight weeks. “It started with just one six-hour shift a week, then two in the second week, gradually increasing,” he says. “It was definitely helpful to have a phased return.”

Andrew had started to feel dizzy when bending over, which he attributes to his medications. This continues, but he’s adjusted. A bigger issue was dealing with colleagues’ attitudes. “Even if I just look a bit warm, staff on the ward will be asking if I am feeling all right and if I need to sit down,” he says. “While it is nice that they are protective of me, I need them to recognise that I can do my job.

“I am a big fellow – 6ft 4in and used to lifting weights. When I had 5ft 3in women saying: ‘You go and sit down while I move this patient for you,’ it was a bit difficult.” 

Andrew no longer works night shifts, but says he’s now doing everything else he was before his heart attack.

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