Feeding tube on the job? You can make it work!
Maybe you’re a workforce newbie. Or perhaps you’re an old hand at your job. But if you have a feeding tube for the first time at work, you may wonder how to cope with this “new normal” — whether it’s for a short time or the long term.
You may feel like hiding the feeding tube from others. But that could cause you to stress about the tube being “discovered.” Hiding it can also keep you from getting the support you need. Keep in mind that in some cases laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (for businesses with 50 or more employees) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (for businesses with 15 or more employees) help protect workers from being fired for health reasons.
The main thing is, you want to do as you’ve always done, feeding tube or not: Excel at your job. You can, and these tips can help set you up for success.
3 tips when you have a feeding tube at work
1. Be upfront with your boss
No law says you have to tell anyone about having a feeding tube. But if it begins to affect your job, consider easing the situation by letting your boss know you’ll need to adjust where or how you work. Bringing in your human resources partner can also help. That way, it’s clear you’re not trying to avoid, or disrupt, work. How much detail you give your employer is entirely up to you.
2. Ask for help
Even minor changes can help you stay healthier and less stressed on the job. That’s something everyone deserves. Here are some things you may want to do:
- If it makes sense for you and your job, consider asking your manager if you can adjust your schedule to support the times you use your feeding tube or whether working from home might be an option.
- Ask your employer to identify a place to use or clean your tube. If a community area is used by everyone and you don’t want to use the sink, keep a small basin or bowl at work to clean your syringes or extension set.
- If you have doctor visits on a regular basis, see if you can adapt your work hours to fit in your appointments.
The point is, if you don’t ask, you won’t know how flexible your company is willing to be for you.
3. Keep your support circle close
Sometimes it can be challenging to manage a feeding tube in a work setting, especially while you’re also trying to do the best job you can. The key is to make sure you have as much support as possible. A trusted group of friends, family, healthcare professionals and others can help you balance the ups and downs of work and your well-being. Keeping them in the loop and sharing your feelings with them is a healthy thing to do.
Don’t put off asking for help and getting care and support if you need it — this may help you be more efficient, and limit missed time away from your job.
The most important thing? Take good care of yourself. Follow your health team’s orders. Try to get plenty of rest and find ways to relax. Don’t put off asking for help and getting care and support if you need it — this may help you be more efficient, and limit missed time away from your job.
Keep the lines of communication open at work and with your circle of support. It’s the best way to help you face each workday with confidence, feeding tube or not.
**It is recommended you consult your company’s Human Resources policies and resources or consult with legal counsel to determine what your legal rights are in the workplace.