Rehabilitation nurses are on the frontlines of helping people recover from a debilitating illness or injury that makes it challenging or even impossible to perform their typical daily functions. From assisting patients with learning how to perform routine tasks for themselves once again to lending encouragement and support to families, rehab nurses like those at Brooks Rehabilitation provide crucial care and expertise during every step of the treatment process.
Few jobs can be as satisfying as nursing, and few nursing careers offer the sort of opportunities to form real relationships with patients as those in rehabilitation nursing. But what, exactly, does the job entail? Let’s take a look at the duties and responsibilities one will encounter during a day in the life as a rehab nurse.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Rehabilitation Nurse
Rehabilitation nursing jobs may not even begin during the daytime at all. It is entirely possible that they may begin their work at night, or that they may work mid-shift hours. Many patients recovering from a stroke or other debilitating injury or illness require around-the-clock care, and this means that multiple rehabilitation nurses may work with a single patient over the course of 24 hours.
No matter when they clock in, however, a rehab nurse is expected to perform a wide array of duties during their shift, most of which will fall into one of a few general categories.
When most of us think of nurses, we think of the direct medical care that they provide to patients, and this is indeed a big part of the job. Rehabilitation nurses are working with patients who have to rely on a professional to provide them with the help and care that they need — in some cases, simply to perform the basic functions most of us take for granted every day.
The spectrum of necessary care that falls under the rehab nurse’s purview can vary from patient to patient. Some are at a stage where they can take care of themselves for the most part, but may need some extra guidance as far as what they can do to continue to improve their physical condition over time. Some will require routine care, such as the treatment of wounds, assistance with lifting, or even help with learning how to walk again. Essentially, rehab nurses have to be prepared to do it all, and to treat patients who display a diversity of abilities.
One of the most rewarding aspects of a career in rehabilitation nursing is having the opportunity to go over the treatment plan that a particular patient needs. Rehab nurses are expected to work with patients and their families to help educate them about the steps that will be taken to ensure the patient is making steady progress toward their goals. By spending time and building true rapport with a patient, a rehab nurse learns the ways to best communicate such aspects of a treatment plan as:
- Milestones: the incremental goals the patient should strive and expect to reach during treatment
- Expectations: The exercises, appointments and other concrete steps that the patient will have to take to reach those goals
- Support: The ways and means by which the rehabilitation nurse and other staff can and will assist the patient in achieving optimal recovery
- Timelines: A compassionate yet realistic look at how long the recovery process could take
When going over this kind of information, it’s natural to assume that the patient and any relatives will have some questions that you should be prepared to answer as well. They are often going to pepper you with questions about things related to the timeline and expectations — it’s only natural for someone to want to know how hard the process is going to be, and how long it will take. They may also ask some other difficult questions, such as whether or not their loved one will ever fully recover from their injury or illness. You will have to be prepared to deal with challenging questions like that in a direct and honest manner.
Naturally, many details fall under the umbrellas of patient care and education, from charting, paperwork and creating activities for the patient to mentoring students, residents and new nurses as they prepare to embark upon their own careers. The rehab nurse doesn’t necessarily go through every single one of these activities every day, but they will see to the well-being of their patients and track the progress of those patients’ recoveries during every shift, and that’s really the most gratifying part of the job.
Many rehabilitation nurses also find the time in their days to do community outreach and education work.
In addition to speaking with individual patients and their families about treatment plans and timelines, rehab nurses are also often responsible for going out into the community and trying to help people better understand what it is like for people dealing with disabilities. Many physical therapy nurse professionals are driven by a passion to do this anyway, and part of the job is increasingly focused on this type of community outreach. The reason for this is that the job of being a rehabilitation nurse can be more effectively performed when a larger percentage of the outside community understands what these types of nurses are doing in the first place.
There are a lot of stereotypes and stigmas about people with disabilities, and it can make the work of being a rehabilitation nurse harder when people are held back by their notions of what a disabled person is, and how they can (or can’t) be helped. Fortunately, this part of the job is highly rewarding, as it gives nurses the chance to interface with the community, and help neighbors better understand what they do and why the work is so important.
Join the Brooks Rehab Team Today
If you’re looking for a job in the field of rehabilitation nursing, Brooks Rehabilitation is a great place to build a long and satisfying career. We are hiring talented and compassionate people who want to make a difference in the world.
Check our current rehab nursing job listings, and even if you don’t see the opening you want, be sure to submit your resume with us today.