Empowering injured workers: the role of a surgery nurse

September 7, 2022

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By Tracey Davanport, VP, clinical operations and Melissa Shannon, senior clinical team lead

Getting ready for the workday. Going on a walk with family. Grocery shopping. Working out with a friend. These scenes are what many of us typically associate with a normal routine. But for injured workers, life is quickly turned upside down. Navigating the unknowns and next steps can take an emotional toll, especially for those facing surgery as the best option to returning to what they love to do.

Aside from their concerns about the safety of a procedure or potential pain, injured workers often panic about the financial and psychosocial component of being out of work. Not to mention, worry about how and when they will be able to return to work and their prior level of function. In the midst of uncertainty, they want more than anything to feel heard and to know that someone is there for them. This is where a surgery nurse steps in — to listen; to provide educational resources; to give reassurance; and to be an advocate for the injured worker when they need it most.


When Carly*, a 19-year-old employee suffered a fractured ankle, a claim was opened to a surgery nurse a few weeks ahead of her scheduled surgery. During initial contact, the assigned nurse discovered that Carly lived on the third floor of an apartment without access to an elevator. Not to mention, her space only had a bathtub. Thankfully, the nurse took swift action to inform the provider and request durable medical equipment (DME). Crutches, a rolling scooter, and a device for the tub to keep her foot out and dry were secured prior to surgery. The nurse also scheduled a pre-operation physical therapy visit to make sure Carly felt confident in her ability to use the equipment and recover as soon as possible.

Another injured worker, Sam* was scheduled to undergo outpatient knee surgery when a surgery nurse was flagged. Due to a pre-existing heart condition, Sam was worried about the safety of the procedure. After listening to his concerns, the assigned surgery nurse informed the physician’s office, and the procedure was transitioned to inpatient. To give Sam added peace of mind, they spent time walking through the process and planning next steps. It’s instances like this where the surgery nurse can help fill in the gaps, problem solve and ultimately, advocate for the injured worker when they hit a bump in the road.


To bounce back after a surgery, injured workers can benefit from consistent, regular communication with a surgery nurse. Gary* is just one example. Post shoulder surgery, a technician paid a visit to his home to set up ice therapy. Having left without educating Gary on how to put his sling back on, he felt lost and anxious. Gary was able to connect with his surgery nurse who walked him through the process of getting back into the sling safely. The nurse continued to contact Gary over the course of six weeks to make sure he was attending physical therapy, answer any questions and encourage him to keep going. By building these relationships early on, nurses are seen as trusted advocates and educators to the injured worker throughout the recovery process.

Influencing outcomes and making a difference

An injured worker’s greatest hope is to recover in a way that allows them to return to their everyday routines, to improve their health, to get back to work and to continue doing the things they love to do. Sometimes, this may require the surgery nurse to coordinate care with the physician, examiner, and employer. Other times, they are there to ensure a smooth discharge experience, monitor pain management and document recovery. But no matter the circumstance, they are always there to give injured workers peace of mind.

Our surgery nurse solution helps injured employees facing surgery to be better prepared physically and mentally, and to confidently steer themselves toward a faster recovery. Surgery nurses help achieve the best outcome for every injured worker by working closely with one another and in collaboration with adjusters, doctors, and ancillary care teams. For more information, read our flyer or visit our website.

*Names have been changed in these cases to protect privacy.

Tags: advocacy, Advocate, Casualty, clinical approach, injured worker, Injured workers, Managed care, nurse, nurses, People, resilience, Resiliency, surgery, surgery nurse, View on people, Wellbeing, Workers comp, workers compensation, workers' compensation, Workers’ Comp, workers' comp