Person at desk writingEnd stage renal disease (ESRD) affects over 700,000 people in the United States. For Ingrid, ESRD meant a new life focused on recovery and a schedule defined by treatments. But she didn't give up on the goal of one day returning to work. And when she was ready, Ticket to Work was there to support her and give her the training she needed for a new career and a returned sense of normal.

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A pathway back to work for people with End Stage Renal Disease

Oct 27, 2020

By Donna DaSilva, RN, Health Services Advisory Group

Person at desk writingIngrid had a career as a social worker in New York, but one day when she was leaving home to go to work, she felt ill. She was weak, dizzy and couldn't stand up, so she immediately went to the emergency room.

She went through several tests at the hospital and they discovered she was in renal (kidney) failure. She was shocked! Her previous doctors had never mentioned that she had any problems with her kidneys. Ingrid started dialysis treatments and had to stop working. Her treatments took place at a clinic 3 times a week, for 3 hours at a time.

Many people who start dialysis have difficulty keeping their jobs due to their treatment schedule or fatigue and other side-effects they may feel after dialysis. Ingrid applied for and started receiving Social Security disability benefits.

After several years of receiving treatment at a clinic, Ingrid went through home dialysis training and did dialysis at home for a year before returning to the clinic for hemodialysis. As she was re-adjusting to dialysis treatments 3 days a week, she began to think about returning to work.

What is end stage renal disease?

End stage renal disease (ESRD) affects over 700,000 people in the United States, and that number is growing. Having ESRD means the kidneys no longer function. People with ESRD must receive dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant to replace their kidney function. Dialysis treatments can occur at a clinic, generally 3 times a week, or at home.

Social Security's ESRD Fact Sheet provides general information for ESRD patients.

Ingrid knew that working can provide her much more than an extra income. She knew it can improve a person's quality of life by:

  • Creating routines
  • Helping to maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Boosting self-esteem
  • Increasing independence
  • Promoting a sense of purpose
  • Enhancing social interaction
  • Reducing risk for depression

Because Ingrid received Social Security disability benefits, she was automatically eligible to participate in Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) Program. The Ticket Program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI/SSDI) and want to work. This free and voluntary program helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence by connecting them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

The Ticket Program can assist people who are on dialysis and would like to return to work. It can also assist those who need to change their line of work or request job accommodations, such as changes to their work schedule, to allow for dialysis. The Ticket Program provides access to a wide variety of free services from providers that offer free short-term and long-term supports to help participants find and maintain employment.

Ingrid explored her options for returning to work with her dialysis social worker, who helped her obtain services from her state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency. With assistance from the VR agency, Ingrid returned to school to learn the skills she would need for a new job in medical billing and coding.

"The Ticket to Work program was my guide back to a more normal life like the one I had before dialysis and they can help you too." -Ingrid

Once Ingrid finished her training, she connected with the Ticket Program for job placement assistance. "Ticket to Work helped me write my resume and find a job at a local hospital where I worked until I was called for a kidney transplant."

While adjusting to the transplant and all the follow-up appointments that came with it, Ingrid changed jobs again. "Currently I am caring for children, which brings me great joy. The Ticket to Work Program was my guide back to a more normal life, like the one I had before dialysis and they can help you too."

If you or someone you know is on dialysis, the Ticket Program may be able to help you return to work. Visit the Ticket Program website at choosework.ssa.gov.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket Program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket Program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket Program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket Program Find Help tool.

Stay Informed by Subscribing to Texts from Ticket to Work!

If you're interested in receiving text messages from the Ticket Program, please text TICKET to 474747. Standard messaging rates may apply. We'll send updates from our blog, identify steps on the path to employment and more. We hope you'll find this way to stay in touch helpful. You can opt out at any time.

If you're interested in receiving text messages from the Ticket Program, please text TICKET to 474747. Standard messaging rates may apply. We'll send updates from our blog, identify steps on the path to employment and more. We hope you'll find this way to stay in touch helpful. You can opt out at any time.

Blogger bio: Donna DaSilva, RN, has been working in the renal field for over 20 years. Her passion for patient advocacy has continued through her many roles as a nephrology nurse. She is currently working as a quality improvement nurse with Health Services Advisory Group (HSAG): The Florida ESRD Network and continues to empower dialysis facility staff to educate and motivate dialysis and transplant patients to consider returning to work or to receive training or education with the goal of becoming employed.
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