How patients with chronic illness should talk with their doctors is a frequent topic online. Laurie Edwards wrote about what patients need to think about in terms of other patients (The patient to patient relationship).
But are you telling your doctor enough information about your current job situation?
Think about it. Does your physician ask you how your work is going or how your symptoms affect you at work? Unlikely, unless you mention it’s a problem first. Or unless your symptoms are so clearly disabling that the issue can’t be overlooked.
I’m not saying that you won’t find any physician willing or able to probe these issues. But given the demands of the current reimbursement environment, most doctors are too busy to talk about anything than what seems directly related to keeping you healthy.
But here is why it is very important to your long term job security strategy that your doctor write — in your medical records (which should be for his/her eyes only!) — a note about whether or not you have made some accommodations at work due to symptoms.
As my client (I’ll call him Craig) just found out, you can find yourself up a creek without a paddle if you don’t have a physician’s documentation that you are in fact “sick” or debilitated.
Craig thought he was keeping his job safe when he made minor changes regarding how he did his job – – without mentioning it to his supervisor or others. He deliberately did not inform anyone because he worried about backlash. He did not tell his doctor because he thought he was taking care of things successfully and didn’t want to be a complainer.
But, as Craig found out, when the time came that he ran out of the job modifications that he could make without getting his supervisor involved, he lacked the data he needed.
When Craig told his supervisor that he needed certain accommodations, his supervisor pushed back. From his supervisor’s perspective, Craig was doing his job well so accommodations weren’t necessary . Remember, he didn’t know the hoops Craig jumped through daily! When Craig explained that he’d already been working differently because of his symptoms, his supervisor demanded a doctor’s note confirming that Craig had these disabilities.
But, Craig’s doctor wasn’t able to support his claim. He had no idea about what Craig was or wasn’t doing at his job.
It would be easy to point to various mis-steps in Craig’s communication with his supervisor that might have prevented his supervisor’s response. But as he learned later, the doctor’s note verifying that Craig had been doing his job for several months using his own modifications would have overcome any objections.
Craig has managed to create a temporary work scenario that gives him more flexibility than he currently has — on a trial basis. But it’s taken time and unnecessary energy – none of which he has in abundance right now.
A doctor’s note – kept in his doctor’s office until necessary – with notation of Craig’s increasing disabling symptoms and the accommodations he was making at work would have allowed him to paddle far more easily.
If you’re thinking about asking for accommodations, I go into detail about what to say and how to say it in my book, Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend! and in my career thrive Guidebook, You Don’t Say.
Rosalind aka cicoach.com