The Struggles of Finding a Job with Rheumatoid Arthritis


Losing a job is difficult. Couple that with managing a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and trying to get back up on your feet can seem even more daunting. I was recently laid off from a hospital job, and while it was freeing to leave the high-stress environment, I had much to consider as I re-entered the job search.

People with chronic illnesses, and specifically people with RA, are significantly more likely to be unemployed than their healthy counterparts.  Finding and keeping a job can be very difficult for people with RA. The job search can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially if you are chronically ill. If you’re currently looking for a job or struggling to keep one with a chronic illness, keep in mind the following things:

Disclosing your illness

One thing that is difficult for some people, is deciding whether or not to disclose their illness.  For me, so much of my work has revolved around illness that I am pretty open about it from the beginning.  But for most, this disclosure is all dependent on the job.  The reason I became a patient advocate is because of my own personal experience with illness, so it can be hard to leave that out when applying to positions related to that.

Have standards and demand accommodations

Just as employers have standards, be aware of your standards as you consider RA.  Do you require special computer or office furniture to be able to do a job? Let them know that.

If you have the skills to do a job, you have the right to request reasonable accommodations that will make you better able to complete your work under the American with Disabilities Act.  Depending on the job and employer, this might even include flexible hours or the ability to work from home.

However, in reality many jobs may not offer the above mentioned accommodations, and therefore, working a traditional 9 to 5 job might not be realistic if you have an unpredictable illness like RA.  For me, being able to take a nap during the day is very helpful, although impossible to do when working a traditional job.  For me, despite the difficulties, working a 9 to 5 job makes sense for where I am in my life right now.

Consider the pros and cons of freelancing

That’s why many people with chronic illnesses opt to freelance because they can work from home and make their own hours.  While working from home has its benefits, it also comes with some hazards, the main ones being not having a steady income and not having access to affordable health insurance, both of which are essential for managing RA.

Above all, be happy

The good news is that the ever evolving treatments for RA are giving people the opportunity and ability to work more than ever before while managing RA.

The most important thing in all of this is to do what you love.  Because if you have limited time and energy, you don’t want to waste it on doing something that doesn’t make you happy.