Rehabilitation nurses: Who are they and what do they do?

According to the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN), rehabilitation (rehab) nurses use all of their clinical skills to “make a visible difference in their patients’ lives and work as part of a collaborative healthcare team.” Rehab nurses work with patients of all ages, as well as their families and caregivers, shortly after a disabling injury or chronic illness; and through all levels of post-acute care from inpatient rehabilitation to home care. They may play many roles, including administrators, clinical nurse leaders, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, collaborators, educators, advocates, care coordinators, and more. They work with other healthcare team members, including occupational and physical therapists, physiatrists, recreation therapists, respiratory therapists, neuropsychiatrists, speech therapists, and other clinicians to create comprehensive care plans for their patients as they work toward recovery and independence. Rehab nurses may specialize in different roles, such as pain management rehab nurse, home care rehab nurse, rehab nurse educator, or rehab nurse researcher. Visit ARN for descriptions of each of these roles. Interested in rehab nursing as a profession? Learn more about how to become a Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse.

Rehabilitation nurses have and continue to work with NIDILRR-funded projects. The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) and the Model Systems are two types of projects where one may find a rehab nurse. Current RERCs and Model Systems where one may find a rehab nurse include:

  1. The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Patient-Centered, Home-Based Technologies to Assess and Treat Motor Impairment in Individuals with Neurologic Injury promotes rehabilitation-based devices, strategies, techniques, and interventions that can facilitate activity and mobility following neurologic injuries, specifically home-based technologies for treating motor impairments.
  2. The Northwest Regional Burn Model System Center researchers study topics of high priority for people with a burn injury such as employment, rehabilitation to include home therapy, depression, post-burn itching; and provide research-based education and training to professionals and consumers.

NARIC’s information specialists searched REHABDATA to find articles on rehab nursing from the NIDILRR community and beyond, as well as more than 300 articles from the grantee community on nursing and nurse education. If you are interested in rehab nursing and would like to learn more or are a rehab nurse looking for research for your practice, please contact NARIC’s information specialists to assist you in your search.