Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday's Specialty - Rehabilitation Nursing

This week’s specialty comes to us from RehabRN. After you read what she has to say about Rehabilitation Nursing, hop on over to her blog to check out the rest of her posts. She has some great stories over there, along with some links to some really good articles.

Rehab Nursing...the good, the bad, the ugly

I like to tell people that my job as a rehabilitation nurse involves teaching people how to live. Patients come to inpatient rehabilitation for two main reasons: they need 24 hour nursing care and they need physical, occupational, speech or other therapies, and can tolerate them a minimum of three hours per day.

People come to rehab for a variety of specific reasons, too. They could be debilitated from a heart attack, pneumonia, surgery, or sometimes following hospitalization for a chronic condition. Many patients need to rebuild their endurance to go home. Most commonly, however, patients are sent to rehab following a stroke, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. In addition, there are also specialized rehab programs for the blind and amputees.

In terms of where you work, you can work in many rehab settings with just an LPN license or as a diploma nurse. Baccalaureate trained nurses are often preferred. Your experience can vary, because you’ll need both those med-surg skills, such as starting IVs, tube feedings, inserting catheters, as well as other specialized skills you’ll learn along the way. You may assist doctors in performing procedures on the unit, such as changing tracheotomy tubes, lumbar punctures or complex wound dressings. Some facilities may also want you to maintain ACLS certification, others not.

Rehab settings may seem “slow” or “boring” to some new nurses, but they’re not always that way. You’ll learn a lot about prioritizing patient care when three of your six patients are due to therapy all at the same time, and you need to assess, medicate them and perform your treatments. In some units, you have hustle and bustle, then a little quiet time, then hustle and bustle and a little more time again. It just depends on your patients and a variety of other factors. As the Boy Scouts say, be prepared just in case the unexpected happens.

Many facilities may want nurses with two years experience, or they may hire you as a new nurse right out of school. Rehab nurses work in a variety of settings outside the hospital including clinics, long term care facilities, home health agencies, schools and outpatient rehab facilities, to name a few.

You will also deal with a lot of psychosocial issues in rehab, so I like to tell people that rehab nursing is a combination of med-surg and psychiatric nursing. These two factors can be very exhausting as a new nurse, both physically and emotionally. Besides med-surg and psych skills, rehab nurses are a vital part of the treatment team. We work with every kind of therapist you can imagine: physical, occupational, recreational, speech, etc., as well as medical staff, chaplains, and psychologists. Rehab nurses provide vital feedback necessary for the rehab hospital to get reimbursement from insurance via their care plans and their participation in team conferences.

If you are practicing in a rehab setting for two years, you may qualify to sit for certification exams, including the CRRN (Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse –see, MSCN (Multiple Sclerosis Certified Nurse—see or other related certifications, depending on your area of expertise.

So where do you go from here? It’s up to you. In my short career, I’ve seen nurses in rehab go on to work in ICUs, wound care clinics, home health agencies and as case managers. One nurse I worked with even became a nurse manager of a rehab unit. There are a wide variety of places in which you can use your skills. Always keep your eyes open! Be willing to learn new things and the world is your oyster.

About the author:

RehabRN is a certified rehabilitation nurse working for the one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems. Read more about her working life at the Hotel Rehab at

Thank you so much RehabRN for contributing! That was excellent information about Rehabilitation Nursing!

No comments:

Post a Comment