Rehabilitation nurses care for patients who have temporary conditions or permanent illnesses or disabilities. Their goal is to help their clients attain and maintain the maximum function and level of self-care possible within their condition’s restrictions.
Most rehabilitation nurses become registered nurses first, and then specialized in rehabilitation services. Although it is possible to obtain a nursing credential through an accredited program, usually through a hospital, most registered nurses today get a bachelor’s degree in nursing. While nursing programs require a certain level of clinical study, core courses can be taken in a classroom or online.
A rehabilitation nurse must first earn a degree as a registered nurse. Earning a bachelor’s degree will give a nurse additional training in leadership skills, communication and critical thinking which can help in advancing a nursing career later on. Once they have earned a degree in nursing and passed a national examination, a nurse can choose to specialize in the rehabilitation field. There are many schools that offer accelerated degrees in nursing for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field.
Rehabilitation nurses must be physically fit in order to perform their daily tasks which may require lifting and bending. They educate patients and their families in adapting to altered abilities and how it will affect their daily lives. They will base their treatment plan on scientific theories that promote physical and social health and increase the level of self-care. They must function as a teacher, a caregiver and a client advocate to help their patients achieve the maximum in self-care and pain relief.
Rehabilitation nurses work with other members of the staff as well as the patient and their family to set realistic goals that encourage socialization and healthy behaviors. A rehabilitation nurse must be intuitive, and able to assess a patient’s physical and psychological needs and abilities in order to formulate a diagnosis.
A rehabilitation nurse may work in an inpatient setting such as a hospital or in an outpatient facility such as a rehabilitation center. Their goal is to develop treatments that lead toward a patient’s discharge or increased self-sufficiency. They will teach nursing practices to patients and their families so that they can carry on the care at home. They may also assist clients through the grieving process as they mourn the loss of their former abilities.
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for a rehabilitation nurse was $57,280 per year as of May 2006. The increased ageing population in this country means the job outlook for rehabilitation nurses is expected to grow faster than average, at about 34% through 2016.