What does a Rehabilitation Nurse do?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 March 2020
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A rehabilitation nurse provides direct care and counseling services to people who suffer from physical and mental disabilities, chronic illnesses, or substance abuse problems. He or she helps people re-establish independent lifestyles after debilitating incidents. A rehabilitation nurse also educates family members and caregivers about an individual's disability and how they can provide the best support.

The goal of a rehabilitation nurse is to help a recently disabled or ill person regain a high degree independence. Nurses help people adjust to difficult circumstances involving their home life, job, and interactions with family and friends. They provide constant encouragement and suggest strategies to help people adapt to their disabilities.

Rehabilitation nurses may work in hospitals, home health care companies, outpatient physical rehabilitation clinics, or substance abuse treatment centers. Depending on the job setting, a rehabilitation nurse assumes many different roles in patient care. Nurses who work in hospitals commonly treat several different patients, conferring with doctors and other nurses to design appropriate treatment plans. They frequently attend rehabilitation sessions with their patients to provide encouragement and assess their progress. In addition to their specialized services, rehabilitation nurses in hospitals perform more general nursing duties, such as administering medication and checking vital statistics.


In the home health care field, rehabilitation nurses provide education and counseling services to patients and their families. Nurses may spend significant amounts of time in patients' homes, teaching them how to manage everyday activities despite their disabilities. Rehabilitation nurses in home health care often help patients return to their existing jobs or explore new employment options.

A nurse working in a physical rehabilitation clinic or substance abuse center plays an especially significant role in a patient's recovery. He or she assists doctors in providing patient assessments, counseling, and case management services. A nurse often facilitates group therapy sessions to allow patients to share their experiences and opinions with one another. In addition, many nurses attend follow-up meetings with recovering patients to provide ongoing counsel and support.

To become a rehabilitation nurse, a person must typically obtain either an associate or bachelor's degree from an accredited nursing program, though many employers prefer to hire nurses with more advanced degrees. Many rehabilitation nurses pursue master's and even doctoral degrees in order provide better care and create possibilities for advancement within their careers. Once educational requirements are met, a prospective nurse must become licensed in his or her state by passing a national licensing exam. Many established nurses choose to take a certification test administered by the Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board, though certification is not always required.


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Post 4

I worked in nursing home rehabilitation for about 2 years, but couldn't handle it anymore. Many of the people I worked with had just given up, and didn't seem to have any reason to put forth much effort to improve.

After so long, I found that I was depressed because I felt like I wasn't making much of a difference. There were always a few bright spots along the way, but the overall atmosphere was too dismal for me.

I now work in a rehab clinic where most of my patients are younger. There are still tragic situations to work through, but most of them have positive attitudes which really makes a difference for everybody.

I have found that when working as a rehabilitation nurse, the relationship you build with the family is just as important as the one with the patient. When everyone is on the same page, their recovery goes so much better.

Post 3

My niece currently works as a rehabilitation nurse in a substance abuse recovery program. This was never something she planned on doing, but circumstances have opened up for her to work here.

Even though she already had her bachelor's degree in nursing, there were some other educational requirements she needed to meet to work as a nurse in this facility.

When working with people who are going through substance abuse programs, there are a lot of emotional issues that you have to deal with as well as the medical issues.

She says this is the most challenging job she has ever had. Many days are frustrating, but she has also seen many success stories which helps keep her encouraged.

Post 2

My dad suffered from a stroke a few years ago, and my mom wasn't in the best of shape herself to help take care of him. They had a rehabilitation nurse come to the home a few days a week for several months.

I don't think I would have the patience to be a rehabilitation nurse. His recovery was slow and painful, and many times he wasn't the easiest person to work with because he was so frustrated.

If it wasn't for the rehab nurses, he probably would have been put in a nursing home. They kept working with him and encouraging him, and didn't let him slack off on what he was supposed to be doing.

I don't know if these nurses ever get thanked very often, but I was very grateful they were there, and am glad they were so patient and persistent when working with my dad.

Post 1

When my sister was recovering from a major car accident, she had to spend quite a bit of time in a rehabilitation facility. Once her recovery reached a certain point, she was then able to participate in group therapy.

At each stage of her recovery, there were rehabilitation nurses to help her and encourage her. It was interesting to see how my sister responded to those who were really upbeat and enthusiastic about their jobs.

I know that everyone has their own personality, but some of the rehab nurses just seemed much more caring and compassionate than others. These were the ones my sister really seemed to put out the most effort for, and was always happy to see them in her room.

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