Rehab Nursing: There’s a big difference in treatment and care.

March 15, 2018

Years ago, when Jodie Thompson first began her nursing career, she didn’t know anything about rehab nursing.

She soon noticed, however, that all the stroke patients in her facility went on for rehabilitation therapy while continuing to be cared for by specially-trained rehab nurses. It was only later that she learned just how complex rehab nursing care was.

“Rehab nurses must have a broad base of knowledge, along with specialty training,” says Jodie, nurse manager in Siskin Hospital’s Stroke and Brain Injury units. “In fact, I would group rehab nursing in the same category with other specialty practices, such as ICU, ER, and maternity care nursing.”

Rehab nursing differs significantly from acute-care nursing, says Tracy Reed, Siskin Hospital’s vice president of nursing and patient care services. The focus is less on “fixing” a patient with surgery, repair or intervention in a disease condition and instead moves a patient along a continuum to return them to the life they had before hospitalization.

“Acute care saves their lives, and rehab nursing care gives them their lives back,” says Tracy. “We pick up the pieces and help them rebuild. We help them re-learn how to do the things they once did.”

Rehab nurses can develop a strong relationship with patients and their families. In acute care settings, there is less time to do that. Care is focused on administering medications and monitoring patients during the short time they’re there. In a specialty rehab hospital, patients stay an average of 14 days. Rehab nurses know the patient’s past, they see where they are now, and they know the physical rehab goals they’re working toward.

To that end, team communication and collaboration between disciplines is extremely important, Jodie says, and nurses reinforce what patients learn in their therapy sessions.

All new Siskin Hospital nurses get a full day of transfer training with occupational therapists so they understand therapy terms like “minimum-assist,” “moderate-assist,” and “maximum assist.” Understanding key terms helps keep both patients and staff safe.

Specialty certifications, such as Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN), also demonstrate a nurse’s advanced training. Currently, 52 percent of Siskin Hospital’s eligible bedside nurses are CRRN certified.