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Returning to work after a heart attack
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Returning to work after a heart attack

Discover how to plan for your return to work.

Key takeaways

  • Returning to work is an important part of your heart attack recovery. 
  • The time to return to work will depend on the type of job that you have. 
  • You may need to get some more support when you return to work, and there are many resources to help you do that. 
3 min read
Getting back into the swing of things after a heart attack is an important part of your recovery. You might feel a little unsure about when you can go back, or if you can still do the things you did before. It’s normal. Most people worry about these things. 

Speak with your doctor, nurse, health worker or cardiac rehabilitation team to discuss going back to work. They can help you to plan and prepare, and suggest any changes you might need to make.   

At work 

You can usually go back to work a few weeks after you leave hospital. It will depend on how quickly you recover, and what type of work you’re returning to.  

If you’ve had bypass surgery, it’ll take a little longer. It might take 4-6 weeks for a desk job, or a bit longer if your work is physical. Your workplace may have a Rehabilitation and Return to Work Coordinator who can plan your return to work, and help you once you start. 

If you do physically demanding work, you may need to build up your strength before you go back. You can ask your employer if you can work less hours or shorter days.  

It’s important that you don’t rush back. You need to be physically and emotionally ready – once you start, give yourself time to settle back into things. Things have changed, and you need to adjust. 

Losing your job 

 The last thing you want to worry about after having a heart attack is losing your job. If this has happened to you, or if you’re worried that it will, you can get support through Work Assist (formerly Job in Jeopardy Assistance). 

Work Assist is a service that will help you if your job is at risk because of illness, injury or disability. They can help by: 
 
  • Giving advice about redesigning your job, if needed 
  • Assessing your workplace to see if any changes need to be made 
  • Helping to put in place these changes 
  • Arranging specialised equipment to help you at work. 
Work Assist is free. All you need to do is register with a Disability Employment Provider (DEP).  

Need help returning to work? 

Support is available to help you with your return to work. In Australia, each state and territory have their own return to work coordinators. Their job is to help you plan your return to work, and make sure you get the right support once you’ve returned. 

Here’s how to find your local return to work coordinator: 
 
  • Australian Capital Territory  
  • Northern Territory 
  • South Australia 
  • Queensland 
  • Victoria 
  • Tasmania 
  • Western Australia 
 
It can be hard to know when to return to work. Your healthcare team will be able to advise you. They will consider: 
 
  • Your diagnosis and treatment 
  • How severe your condition is 
  • How long recovery should be 
  • Whether your condition is stable 
  • The type of work you’re returning to. 
Your GP or cardiologist will also be able to advise you on whether you should return full-time straight away, or if it’s better to gradually build up your hours. 

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