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Whether you are returning to your current job or looking for a new one, you are likely to have questions and concerns about getting back into the workplace after your heart attack

The good news is that many thousands of people successfully return to work after a heart attack and there is help available to make your return easier.

It is worth taking some time to think about how your heart condition will affect you in the workplace. Will you be able to do exactly the same sort of work you used to do? Will you need to work fewer hours? Will you need to learn new skills?

If you have been in employment before your heart attack then you can usually go back to work within a few weeks after leaving hospital. However, it’s natural to be concerned about how soon you can go back to work and whether you can continue to do the same job you were doing before your heart attack.

Keith talks about going back to work after a heart attack.
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Talk to my health professional about getting back to work

How quickly you can return to work depends on:

  • The type of work you do
  • How severe your heart attack was
  • How well you’re recovering
  • Whether you still have symptoms.

Talk to your GP or hospital doctor about getting back to work. They can advise you when you’re fit enough to return to work and also provide you with a medical certificate.

The benefits of returning to work

For most people, returning to work is good for their health and well-being.

The benefits of work include:

  • Participating in some form of physical activity on work day
  • Socialising and being part of team or work culture
  • Improving self-esteem and allowing you to feel you are making a contribution to your family and society
  • Giving a structure and routine to days and weeks
  • Providing financial security

What does your job involve?

If you have a job that involves light duties, such as administration work, and you’re recovering well, you will probably be able to go back to work sooner than if your job involves more physical duties, such as heavy lifting or the use of heavy equipment. If you have a job that requires this type of manual work, and your GP has told you to avoid activities such as those listed above, speak to your employer. They may be able to change your role or workload until your GP says you can return to your previous role.

Driving

If driving is part of your employment and you hold a vocational license or drive passenger vehicles, trucks, forklifts, courier vans or fly aeroplanes, you can apply to start driving four weeks after your heart attack. You will need to have an assessment by a specialist before returning to driving.

Did you know?

Most heart attack patients go back to work within two weeks to three months depending on the severity of the heart attack. Your doctor will determine when you can go back and if your current job is suitable for a person who has had a heart attack.

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Discuss returning to work plan with my employer

Before you return to work

Before you go back to work, it’s a good idea to speak to your employer to discuss what will happen when you return. For example, your employer may allow you to:

  • Return gradually by starting part-time and gradually building up your hours
  • Reduce your workload or do less strenuous duties for a while
  • Introduce rest periods into your day if tiredness has been identified as a problem.

It’s important to let your employer know that you may need to rest if you get tired during the day.
Tell your employer about any medical and recovery advice your doctor or healthcare team has given you, and discuss the details of your medical certificate with them. The medical certificate may indicate, for example, that you’re not fit for work for a period of time, or that you may be fit for a work under certain conditions, such as:

  • A phased return to work
  • Altered hours
  • A change in work duties.

If your employer has an occupational health department, they can give you further help and advice about returning to work, such as determining what workload is suitable. They may also offer counselling.

Early retirement

A heart attack is a major life event and can impact a person’s life significantly. For some it may indicate an uncertain future. Therefore it is not surprising for some to consider early retirement. This is not a light decision to make and it is vitally important that it is made for the right reasons and is not just based on fear and anxiety, as there are financial and social consequences to consider. If you are thinking of an early retirement as a result of your heart attack talk to your doctor or health provider who can offer advice.

Continue the journey

Driving & Travel
Do you know when you can return to driving your car?
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The Future
Learn more about reaching your lifes fullest potential
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