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Grown ups with congenital heart defects | GUCH

Listen to you heart

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Career and studies

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Anyone who has a heart defect has many things to consider when choosing qualifications and a career. There are also some studies on this topic that might be interesting for you. Read here which factors play a role in choosing a profession if you have a congenital heart defect.

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Why is education important
Training and studies play a more important role for people with physical disabilities who want to pursue a profession than for the population as a whole. According to studies, the career choice of people with congenital heart defects depends on their level of education. However, this applies to the entire population regardless of their health. According to some studies, the level of education is lower for people with a severe heart defect than for those with a mild heart defect. This could be because the heart defect has a greater impact on everyday life.

Above average education
Some countries keep statistics on the relationship between congenital heart defects and level of education. However, comprehensive data is not available. For example, there are studies from Germany, Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom which show that the level of education in people with heart defects is comparable - and often even higher - than the average population. Interestingly, several studies have shown that people with congenital aortic diseases have the highest level of education. Other heart defects that are associated with high levels of education include pulmonary stenoses and ventricular septal defects. However, few studies have so far investigated individual heart defects.
Conclusions between the type of heart defect and the degree of education should therefore be treated with caution.

Find a job that suits you
Whether someone completes their studies depends on the individual. Genetic predispositions, syndromes, consequences of treatments and the heart defect itself can limit the choice of training. This is especially true for those with very severe heart defects. Adults with a congenital heart defect usually want to find employment that corresponds to their level of education. This motivation must be maintained despite all the challenges - e.g. when a person is advised against a career choice, if there are problems with insurance, when operations are pending or if a further full-time job is no longer possible. It is also possible to find out what kind of work is possible by means of systematic stress tests for certain professions, training and rehabilitation programmes.

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Do something you really want to do.
"What should I become?" - We all face this question at some point in our lives. And there is often no quick answer. For most of us, this question arises for the first time at the end of puberty, when the course is set for education and career. But the decision is anything but easy - particularly with a congenital heart defect. What is important is that you do something that you really want to do and what makes you happy.

The good news is that, with a few exceptions, young men and women with congenital heart defects have the same opportunities as anyone else. Just follow your heart.

Planning for the long term
A job or a professional career means a better quality of life, financial security and a higher social status. Studies show that young adults with a congenital heart defect sometimes have problems thinking long-term. Many don't know what to expect from the future - and whether they have a future at all.

No need to worry
Most people with CHD can look forward to a long life. They can become scientists, journalists, doctors, welders, drivers, mechanics, computer technicians, electricians - or whatever they want. However, if you have a congenital heart defect, you should carefully weigh up your options and plan for the long term. Opportunities for professional advancement should also be considered. The important thing to remember is that there is no single right way. Because your decisions are a very personal matter.

Career guidance is useful
Career advisors help to ensure that more and more people actively pursue their careers. Good advice on career paths and training opportunities is therefore extremely important. According to a 2005 UK study, those who have sought career guidance are far more likely to be in employment than those without (73% compared to 46%). Good career guidance is probably the easiest way to help more adults with a congenital heart defect find a career. Counselling should take place in a centre for adults with congenital heart defects or in a place where experts in congenital heart defects can give advice. Individual consultations with a cardiologist and a career advisor are recommended. Career counselling should emphasise the importance of training and studying, while taking into account the physical capabilities of the individual patient. This type of counselling is rarely offered in Europe and is virtually unknown in many other countries of the world.

Simple adjustments make working life easier
As with all of us, the professional performance of people with congenital heart defects depends on several factors. The severity of a heart defect does not automatically imply problems in working life. Rather, it is a matter of finding what is right for you and concentrating on your individual possibilities.

According to a study, about half of those surveyed with a complicated heart defect have health problems at work. The situation is different for a mild heart defect. Here, only 1% of those surveyed experience such problems. 50% of the former group felt that their heart defect limited their professional options. Around 15% were unable to accept a job or had to give up their employment for health reasons. In addition, many respondents had lost their jobs after a medical examination. Some felt that their heart defect prevented them from moving up the career ladder. The main reasons for respondents leaving their jobs were that they were physically unfit for work, suffered from burn-out or had emotional problems. Many wanted simple adjustments with respect to their heart defect - such as flexible working hours, less time pressure, working from home or other measures that would allow them to work more independently. Many people with a healthy heart probably wish for the same things.

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The proportion of the working population varies from country to country and changes over time. Typically, 70 to 85% of the population is in employment. However, the employment rate is also linked to the level of government assistance/benefits provided to the unemployed and welfare recipients in individual countries. With a good welfare system, there are likely to be more people receiving these benefits in addition to or instead of employment.

At present, only a few countries have complete data on the number of people with congenital heart defects in employment.

However, there are some exceptions: According to studies from the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Finland and the USA, it is estimated that 55% to 77% of all adults with moderate or severe congenital heart defects are employed. Adults with complicated congenital heart defects tend to work less than those with mild heart disease. At the same time, the treatment of severe heart defects has made enormous progress, so that more and more children with complicated heart defects are entering working life as adults.

Part time or full time?
It is hardly surprising that the little data available indicates that women with congenital heart defects are not as active in professional life as men. This finding is consistent with the figures for the overall population. However, adult men and women with congenital heart defects work part-time more often than healthy people.

Being in an employment relationship does not necessarily mean working from morning to night every day. Not everyone has the health to be able to work full time. A balance must be found between work and leisure. You should feel that you have a good balance between work and leisure. Work is always rewarding, both financially and for social reasons.

Paid work is also a form of status symbol, which is sometimes more important than we would like to admit.

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