10 Worst Jobs Diabetics Can’t Do

Remaining gainfully employed is important to many people. Those who live with any form of diabetes may find that some lines of work are more suitable for them than others. There’s also a myth that diabetics are prohibited from certain types of jobs because they have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The situation is more complex than that.

The good news is that diabetics have a good chance of being able to work in the majority of industries and fields. Any obstacles they may face are focused more on the physical effects that diabetes can cause rather than the condition proper. If you’re wondering where you stand, consider how these jobs may not be the best fit in your case. With a little evaluation, it won’t be hard to decide if they are good or if they are best avoided. 

Diabetes and Acts That Address Job Discrimination

Many nations have laws that protect the rights of diabetics to pursue careers in multiple fields. The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for diabetics in the workplace. The Equality Act of 2010 also includes protections for type 1 diabetics. Assuming the individual is qualified for the position and the diabetes is under control, there aren’t many types of jobs that are off limits.

Even so, the fact that you can work in a particular position doesn’t mean that you should. Just as an employer evaluates your abilities, it’s important for you to decide if a given position or field is the right option. Most of the following jobs are open to diabetics, but may not be among the best choices for you individually.

1. Food Taster

This is the type of career that can take on many different forms. At one end of the spectrum, you may be a trained culinary expert who has the responsibility of tasting random samples to ensure quality and taste at a facility. You may also work in a research mode that would require you to taste products and provide oral or written reviews related to quality, taste, and texture. There’s also the possibility of working for a manufacturer and conducting random samples to ensure a given product maintains a taste and texture that meet’s the company’s qualify standards.

While this may sound like a dream job to some, it can be problematic for diabetics. This is especially true when the variety of foods that you must sample is varied. There’s always the potential that some of those foods may be outside the scope of your diet. Even if you’re blood glucose levels are usually under control, this type of day-to-day changes in your diet could create problems.

One possible exception is working in a niche that focuses on the tasting of foods prepared with diabetics in mind. If you can land this sort of position, you have a dream job rather than one you should avoid.

2. Prison Security Guard

There was a time when diabetes in any form was enough to bar people from working in prisons and other types of penal facilities. That’s no longer the case. You are free to apply for this type of work and may even land the job based on your qualifications. Even so, it may be something you should refrain from doing.

What are potential drawbacks for you? Prison guards don’t necessary work consistent schedules. You may work a couple of day shifts then end up working a night shift or two. The result can be that you have difficulty establishing and maintaining a sleep schedule.

You already know that adequate sleep is important to glucose management. Jobs like these make it impossible to maintain a regular sleep schedule and will make it harder to keep your diabetes under control. Your best bet is to consider some other line of work.

3. Long-Haul Trucker

Another line of work that was once not open to diabetics, the combination of oral medications and/or insulin treatments has led to many transportation firms being open to the idea of hiring diabetic truck drivers. As long as you can provide evidence that your glucose levels have been under control for a reasonable period of time, you may get hired. Think long and hard before you accept.

Long-haul trucking often means being on the road for days at a time. People who have trouble sleeping in places other than their own beds won’t fare well. There’s also the fact that your job will often take you far away from the healthcare providers who are familiar with the specifics of your case. Add in the fact that the food choices open to you won’t always be the greatest, and it’s easy to see why this sort of work may not be for you.

If you do like the idea of trucking as a way to earn a living, working as an LTL driver may be more your speed. You’re likely to not venture too far from home, meaning most nights you can sleep in your own bed. It’s also easier to have more control over your diet.

4. Airline Pilot

Working as an airline pilot is another type of transportation job that may hold some appeal while not being a good fit in your case. Like long-haul trucking, you may find yourself far from home and unable to sleep in a strange bed. Diabetics who are insulin-dependent may also find that the stress associated with this kind of work is a liability. The fact that stopping to administer a shot may not be possible when you need it is also enough to merit careful consideration before pursuing this kind of career.

Keep in mind that while legislation has paved the way for diabetics to pursue jobs that were previously not allowed, employers do have leeway in determining if your condition makes it riskier for you to hold positions like this one. Given the cost of training and obtaining licensing for this type of work, you may do well to focus attention on other career paths.

5. Deep Sea Diver

At first, you may consider this to be a great way to earn a living. Deep sea divers can function in capacities that include research dives, recovery missions, and even teaching diving to individuals or classes. While requiring a great deal of physical strength, people with diabetes are often just as strong and have as much endurance as anyone else. Perhaps this is the type of work that would be fine for you.

Before getting too excited, consider the environment where you work. Experiencing a severe reduction in blood glucose during a dive is dangerous. There is no way for you to do anything that would increase your glucose without stopping the dive and attempting to return to the surface at a safe pace. The result might be that you become unresponsive before anything could be done to get your levels back into a healthy range.

Rather than put your life and possibly the lives of others at risk, why not consider some other career that’s associated with the water? There are quite a few positions that would allow you to be part of marine research teams without having to dive. One of them may turn out to be the perfect fit for your talents.

6. Intelligence Agent

While it was once not possible for diabetics to hold positions in any US intelligence agencies, that’s not true today. There are still restrictions for insulin-dependent diabetics, who may not serve as special agents or investigative agents. Those who use oral medication and who have a record of stable glucose levels are now free to seek positions within those government agencies.

Even so, many of those positions don’t lead to the type of life structure that you need to effectively manage your condition. Agents may be on call around the clock and end up actively working at unusual times. Maintaining any type of regular work schedule will likely be difficult. Depending on the nature of an assignment, being able to get the rest and exercise you need won’t be easy. There may also be issues in terms of being able to manage your diet effectively.

Should your glucose levels plummet or increase to an unsafe level, your ability to take physical action or to think clearly is likely to be affected. This could place you or anyone who is with you in immediate danger. For these reasons, focus on positions within the intelligence community that would allow you to keep standard hours and involve a minimum of travel or field service.

7. Assembly Line Worker

Fixed shift work may appeal to you because of the steady hours and the ease of maintaining a routine. Even so, the physical demands on assembly line workers can be significant. From positions in textile plants to working in automotive factories, the pace must often be quick in order to achieve the assigned production quotas. This doesn’t always make it possible to stop at designated intervals for a meal or a break. The result is that having a moment to check blood glucose levels, grab something to eat, take meds, or administer a shot may be harder than many people realize.

If your stamina level is somewhat impacted by diabetes, the constant movement related to assembly line work may take a toll. This is especially true if your blood glucose levels are not well controlled and tend to swing significantly during a shift. For some, this type of work may be out of the question simply because it leaves you with fewer opportunities to eat at the same time each work day and have energy left to accomplish tasks outside the workplace.

8. Delivery Driver

Work as a courier or delivery driver may seem like a good fit at first. This type of work does allow you to be out and about, spend some time in the sunshine, and have the opportunity to get exercise as you leave the vehicle and take packages to recipients. What can make this type of work unacceptable in your case is the tasks that many don’t associate with this sort of position.

Depending on company policies, delivery drivers may be responsible for partially loading their vehicles before leaving a terminal. This can be physically demanding, something that a diabetic with compromised endurance may find difficult. In addition, some delivery vehicles may not have heating or air conditioning. This can place further stress on the body while covering a route. Hours can also be longer than initially planned, making it more difficult to ensure that you eat according to a healthy routine.

There can also be complications related to sudden shifts in blood glucose levels. For example, if a hypoglycemic episode takes place and the driver requires treatment, the employer may temporarily restrict driving privileges. They would only be restored after clearance from a medical professional and successfully completing a fresh driving test. In the meantime, there’s some potential for the driver’s income to be adversely affected.

If your condition is well controlled and you have the physical stamina needed for the job, working as a delivery driver may be fine. Should you have any concerns, it might be in your best interests to look for a different line of work, especially one that does not include driving.

9. Surgical Nurse

Registered nurses who work in hospitals often find the work rewarding but demanding. If you have a nursing degree, think twice before seeking positions as a surgical nurse. Among all the positions you could fill in a hospital, this may be the one that’s the most problematic for a person with any form of diabetes.

Nurses who are assigned to floors, including charge nurses, typically have some opportunity to stop for a meal or take a break. When it comes to nurses who are assigned to operating theaters, things can be different. Surgical procedures can often last for ten hours or longer. While some hospitals have policies in place to ensure nurses only remain in an operating room for so many hours, others have no such restrictions. Depending on the laws that apply in your state and whether nursing is unionized in your area, it’s possible you may be on your feet from before the surgery starts until after the patient is transported to a recovery area.

This does not mean nursing in general is off the table for you. Positions in doctor offices or even staff nursing positions that assigns you to specific floors may work well. Those types of nursing positions are also likely to mean you work the same shift even if the days vary from week to week. That makes it much easier to maintain a schedule and take proper care of yourself.

10. Heavy Equipment Operator

Working with heavy equipment requires skill and attention to detail. Remaining sharp while operating the equipment is essential. Whether it’s a forklift, crane, or bulldozer, mental clarity as well as quick reflexes are a must. From construction sites to manufacturing plants or in the midst of road building, there’s not any real room for error.

What does this mean for people who live with diabetes? It means that you must have the condition under control. Those who use insulin as part of that control process have only joined the ranks of people who may hold positions as heavy equipment operators in the last several years. Before that, anyone who required insulin was not eligible.

Even if you’re doing a great job controlling your glucose levels, it’s still possible that operating heavy equipment is not for you. There may still be times when your energy level drags and it’s harder to concentrate. You may or may not be in a position to stop and administer insulin or consume something that helps to normalize your blood glucose levels. If you’re in the middle of a task that cannot be stopped until it’s completed, a drop in blood sugar can be disastrous for you and for anyone else who happens to be close by.

Depending on where you live and the type of equipment you’re operating, it may be necessary to maintain special licensing or certification. One episode triggered by a drastic change in glucose levels may mean you lose the ability to work in your field and have to recover your credentials before being allowed on site again. A history of episodes over time may mean that you can no longer work in the same capacity again.

It’s Your Choice

Keep in mind that people who are insulin-dependent may find positions in certain fields some that limited or not available at all. That’s because the risks to you and to those who may be under your care is not considered reasonable.

Even when there are positions, it’s important to assess your abilities and general condition as well as be mindful of what you would like to do for a living. Preserving your health could mean passing by a job that you could hold, but is also not a good fit for you because of the types of diabetic complications you currently face.

Fortunately, the number of positions that are not open to you is relatively small in comparison to what’s on the market today. If you’re looking for work, objectively assess the state of your health and any complications that your diabetes may be causing. Factor in the skill sets, education, and experience you bring to the table, and the task of finding several employment choices that seem right for you will be much easier.

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