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A rehabilitation nurse provides direct care and counseling services to people who suffer from physical and mental disabilities, chronic illnesses, or substance abuse problems. He or she helps people re-establish independent lifestyles after debilitating incidents. A rehabilitation nurse also educates family members and caregivers about an individual's disability and how they can provide the best support.
The goal of a rehabilitation nurse is to help a recently disabled or ill person regain a high degree independence. Nurses help people adjust to difficult circumstances involving their home life, job, and interactions with family and friends. They provide constant encouragement and suggest strategies to help people adapt to their disabilities.
Rehabilitation nurses may work in hospitals, home health care companies, outpatient physical rehabilitation clinics, or substance abuse treatment centers. Depending on the job setting, a rehabilitation nurse assumes many different roles in patient care. Nurses who work in hospitals commonly treat several different patients, conferring with doctors and other nurses to design appropriate treatment plans. They frequently attend rehabilitation sessions with their patients to provide encouragement and assess their progress. In addition to their specialized services, rehabilitation nurses in hospitals perform more general nursing duties, such as administering medication and checking vital statistics.
In the home health care field, rehabilitation nurses provide education and counseling services to patients and their families. Nurses may spend significant amounts of time in patients' homes, teaching them how to manage everyday activities despite their disabilities. Rehabilitation nurses in home health care often help patients return to their existing jobs or explore new employment options.
A nurse working in a physical rehabilitation clinic or substance abuse center plays an especially significant role in a patient's recovery. He or she assists doctors in providing patient assessments, counseling, and case management services. A nurse often facilitates group therapy sessions to allow patients to share their experiences and opinions with one another. In addition, many nurses attend follow-up meetings with recovering patients to provide ongoing counsel and support.
To become a rehabilitation nurse, a person must typically obtain either an associate or bachelor's degree from an accredited nursing program, though many employers prefer to hire nurses with more advanced degrees. Many rehabilitation nurses pursue master's and even doctoral degrees in order provide better care and create possibilities for advancement within their careers. Once educational requirements are met, a prospective nurse must become licensed in his or her state by passing a national licensing exam. Many established nurses choose to take a certification test administered by the Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board, though certification is not always required.