What is a Rehabilitation Nurse?

A rehabilitation nurse provides medical care, education, and support to help patients recover from their injuries, disabilities, and chronic illnesses.

These healthcare specialists assist patients throughout their recovery to live healthy, independent lives.

Sometimes a patient’s recovery is limited, and they may have long-term health limitations or medical care needs.

In this case, rehabilitation nurses help them learn to adapt to a new lifestyle and gain as much autonomy as possible.

Rehabilitation is a long and intensive process that takes months or years of physical therapy, support, and assistance.

As a result, these nurses often form strong, long-lasting relationships with the patients they help.

What Do Rehabilitation Nurses Do?

Rehabilitation nurses perform numerous duties to help patients regain skills, acquire more autonomy, and live more independently.

As a result, their essential to helping patients recover from their illnesses, injuries, and disabilities to live their best lives.

These healthcare specialists educate patients about their medical conditions.

They develop and execute short and long-term strategies, care plans, treatments, and health goals.

Their treatments, care plans, and objectives help patients recover safely and quickly and develop self-sufficiency.

They also advise family members on adequate methods to care for individuals needing long-term recovery care.

Rehabilitation nurses may administer medications, monitor vitals, and track the patient’s recovery during treatments.

They also perform other rehabilitation-focused procedures as prescribed by the physician or nurse practitioner.

Rehabilitation Nurse Duties:

  • Educate patients about their conditions
  • Answer patient and family questions
  • Provide helpful recovery advice 
  • Administer medications and treatment plans
  • Help patients adapt to a new lifestyle
  • Assist with mobility exercises and training
  • Lift and transfer patients
  • Develop goals and strategies to track progress
  • Help patients become more independent
  • Help with daily routines/tasks
  • Replace bandages/dressings
  • Monitor recovery
  • Coordinate care plans

And a host of other responsibilities related to rehabilitation care and education.

Rehabilitation nurses may work with various healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive essential treatment.

It includes CNAs, LPNs, medical assistants, physicians, physical therapists, and other registered nurses.

Nonetheless, the training and experience CNAs and LPNs receive are relatively limited.

As a result, they play a support role for rehabilitation nurses and physicians.

Where Do Rehabilitation Nurses Work?

Rehabilitation nurses work in various healthcare environments that require rehabilitation and long-term care.

It includes nursing homes,  hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, community centers, patient home care, and long-term healthcare facilities.

Rehabilitation nurses also operate in PT/OT offices, fitness facilities, government agencies, academic institutions, and other rehabilitation-focused healthcare facilities.

Occupational Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation clinics
  • Burn units
  • Surgical departments
  • Community centers
  • Patient home care 
  • Long-term healthcare facilities
  • PT/OT offices
  • Fitness facilities
  • Government agencies
  • Academic institutions
  • Sub-acute care units
  • Insurance companies

The healthcare field of rehabilitation nursing is constantly evolving as new technologies and approaches advance.

As a result, this specialization offers nurses new ways to improve patient medical care and treatments.

Rehabilitation nurses must stay updated on current healthcare trends, technologies, and procedures.

They must also remain updated on the most effective treatmen, and procedures to provide the best care possible.

Therefore, many healthcare facilities require regular training and continuing education to deliver adequate treatments.

Areas of Specialization

Rehabilitation nurses operate in various domains that specialize in different aspects of care.

It includes sports recovery, disability assistance, illness prevention and recovery, and heart and cardiovascular disease rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation nurses also operate in nurse advocacy, education, research, and injury-related recovery programs.

Each specialization requires specific knowledge and training to ensure patients receive optimal care for their conditions.

As a result, rehabilitation nurses may specialize in a particular domain to provide the most effective care.

It enables them to center their education and training on a distinct field to help patients recover and develop better autonomy.

For instance, a heart and cardiovascular disease rehabilitation nurse will use different approaches to treating their patients than a sports recovery nurse.

Likewise, nurse advocates, educators, and researchers must conduct analyses, examinations, and studies to ensure their approaches are understood and implemented.

Common Rehabilitation Nurse Domains:

  • Sports recovery
  • Injury-related recovery programs
  • Disability assistance
  • Illnesses prevention and recovery units
  • Heart disease & cardiovascular disease rehabilitation
  • Cancer treatment recovery
  • Nurse education
  • Nurse Advocacy
  • Nursing research

How to Become a Rehabilitation Nurse

The path to becoming a rehabilitation nurse is relatively straightforward.

However, aspiring nurses must work hard and develop the necessary training to operate in this field.

The rehabilitation process requires registered nurses to be highly educated, well-trained, and patient-focused.

1. Complete a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming a rehabilitation nurse is to complete nursing school and obtain a nursing degree.

Most nursing programs offer a two-year ADN or four-year BSN degree.

Students must complete the nursing school program’s prerequisite courses before entering a program. 

It takes approximately 1 – 2 years to complete the necessary prerequisites.

After that, students may join a nursing program and spend two to four years learning the ins and outs of this profession.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN

At the end of the program, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

This exam varies by state and must be completed to obtain their licensure and work as registered nurses.

Students must also pay all state and licensing fees and pass a background check.

3. Obtain Work Experience

Most employers who hire rehabilitation nurses require them to have several years of registered nursing experience.

Due to the work involved, they may also require registered nurses to possess a BSN degree in nursing.

As a result, it’s beneficial to spend four years in college to obtain a BSN degree instead of an ADN.

It provides better training, numerous career opportunities, and higher pay for registered nurses.

4. Acquire Certification

After obtaining work experience, registered nurses can take the certified rehabilitation registered nurse certification exam.

This examination tests a nurse’s competencies, knowledge, and commitment to rehabilitation patient care.

It also allows registered nurses to become certified and operate as qualified rehabilitation nurses or CCRNs.

Certified registered nurses may seek certified rehabilitation nurse jobs after earning certification.

Some registered nurses work in rehabilitation without obtaining their certification.

However, they may have limited roles in their scope of practice.

Non-certified registered nurses may also earn less money due to their lack of certification.

Finally, many healthcare facilities and rehabilitation services prefer nurses with certification, especially when treating patients with severe conditions or long-term care needs.

Certified registered nurse certification demonstrates a nurse’s competencies, knowledge, and commitment to their career.

It also gives the healthcare facility more confidence that its patients will receive adequate care.

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