Rehabilitation nursing is a branch of the nursing field which is focused on providing care to patients who have been incapacitated by injury or illness. The goal of the nurse is to participate in a treatment program which will allow the patient to regain as much normal function as possible, thereby improving quality of life for the patient. Rehabilitation or rehab nurses can be found working in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, clinics, residential care facilities, and home health care environments, and compensation in this field is quite varied.
People interested in a career in rehabilitation nursing must attend nursing school, and focus on rehabilitation during their nursing training. Many pursue additional training and board certification with a professional organization to make themselves more employable. Board certification proves that a rehabilitation nurse has passed an exam which tests nursing skills, and that he or she is committed to continuing education in the field and constant improvement as a nurse. Board certification can also allow a nurse to supervise other nurses or lead a rehabilitation team.
These nurses may perform many basic nursing tasks, like cleaning wounds, administering medications, assisting patients with bodily functions, charting, and coordinating with a medical team, but they also perform tasks which are specifically related to rehabilitation. For example, a rehabilitation nurse might help a patient learn to walk, eat, talk, write, or perform other tasks after an injury or illness which has impaired these skills. These nurses can also work with patients who are struggling with substance abuse and mental illness.
Rehabilitation nursing also includes patient education and empowerment. If a patient appears to be permanently consigned to a wheelchair after an accident, for example, a rehabilitation nurse will help the patient learn to use the wheelchair, and provide the patient with education which helps him or her live as independently as possible. Rehabilitation nurses also assist patients as they grow accustomed to prosthetic limbs, ventilators, and other assistive devices which may be required.
As part of a patient's care team, rehabilitation nurses work with other rehabilitation professionals to address the patient's specific condition and issues, and to develop a treatment plan which is appropriate for the patient. Some rehabilitation nurses choose to focus on a specific aspect of rehabilitation nursing, such as helping patients regain motor skills or assisting patients who need adaptive devices. Others in the field of rehabilitation nursing practice more generally, working with an assortment of patients and on a variety of cases.