Patients living with acute and chronic illnesses, injuries, and disabilities depend on the expertise and care of rehabilitation nurses. The ability to help others and make a difference in their patients’ lives is one of the top reasons nurses give for choosing this profession. When you are a rehab nurse, you work as part of a collaborative healthcare team. You will use every clinical skill learned in nursing school to care for your patients. Rehab nurses are not limited in where they can work or the age of patients they can treat. That makes the position appealing to many in the nursing profession.
In this articles, we will explore:
- What are the responsibilities of a rehab nurse?
- Who do rehab nurses work with?
- How do I become a rehab nurse?
- How much do rehab nurses make?
What are the responsibilities of a rehab nurse?
According to the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses, there is never a dull moment when working as a rehab nurse. These nurses wear many hats. They are collaborators on a team of healthcare professionals tasked with the treatment of a patient. They coordinate care and advocate for the needs of the individuals they are serving. Rehab nurses also educate the patients and their families on how to achieve the best outcomes from their treatment plan and help them live independently again.
Depending on where they work, rehab nurses can have different job responsibilities. Some of the most common include:
- Coordinating care with other healthcare professionals on the patient’s team of healthcare providers
- Educating patients, their families, and caregivers about their illness/injury and treatment plan
- Giving medications prescribed as part of an overall treatment plan
- Helping patients adapt to changes in lifestyle due to illness/injury while achieving maximum function and independence
- Preparing nursing care plans and updating them when appropriate
Rehab nurses spend a lot of one-on-one time with their patients, so good communication skills are a must.
Who do rehab nurses work with?
The beauty of working as a rehab nurse is the flexibility it provides. Patients with conditions ranging from ALS and brain injuries to joint replacements and spinal cord injuries need the assistance of a rehab nurse. These nurses help patients relearn vital skills in order to maintain as much independence as possible.
Since rehab nurses work with a variety of patients, they practice in some of the following settings:
- Community and private hospitals
- Government facilities (including the Veterans Affairs Administration)
- Home health agencies
- Independent rehabilitation facilities
- Long-term acute care services
- Skilled nursing facilities that offer rehabilitation services
- Universities and teaching hospitals
How do I become a rehab nurse?
There are several steps involved in becoming a rehabilitation nurse. Since rehab nurses are technically registered nurses (RN), they must follow the same education route as an RN. These are the steps involved in becoming a rehab nurse:
1. Nursing school
First, you must attend an accredited nursing program and earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor Degree in Nursing (BSN). It is important to ensure the nursing school you are attending is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.
Next, nurses will sit for the NCLEX-RN examination. Candidates follow a two-step registration process. There are options for registering online and over the phone.
3. Earn specialized certification
Rehab nurses have the option of receiving a specialized certification through the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. This certification is not mandatory, but many rehab nurses find it a valuable resource in advancing their careers. Among other benefits, rehab nurses who possess this certification earn higher salaries than their uncertified peers.
Once you are a licensed rehab nurse, you will need to complete continuing education to maintain your licensure. All but 13 states have this requirement. Check with your state Board of Nursing to determine which CEUs are required, then sign up for free nursing CEUs that can be completed 100% online.
How much do rehab nurses make?
According to salary.com, rehabilitation nurses make an average annual salary of $81,270 as of March 29, 2021. The salary range for rehab nurses is between $74,319 and $91,747 and depends greatly on location and type of facility. Salaries for rehab nurses increase with years of experience and education. You can use a nurse salary estimator tool to receive a personalized estimate based on location and nursing specialty. Knowing your market value can help you decide where to apply for work.
Demand for rehabilitation nurses is expected to rise as the average life expectancy increases. Access to transformative medical care and treatments for illnesses and injuries will also drive the demand for this sector of the nursing profession.
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