What Is a Rehabilitation Nurse?

Rehabilitation nurses have one of the hardest, and most rewarding, jobs in nursing.  They witness the struggles and the triumphs of patients who are working through debilitating illnesses and injuries – everyone from children to the elderly.

What are the Duties of a Rehabilitation Nurse?

The duties of a rehabilitation nurse revolve around assisting patients through the rehabilitation process. Patients who have experienced a traumatic injury or long-term, devastating illness, may need help regaining their strength and learning how to do many of the simple tasks we take for granted. This can include eating with utensils, walking, or even learning to speak or write their name. Rehabilitation nurses are able to work hand in hand with a patient’s doctors to create treatment plans that will allow the patient to regain as much of their mobility as possible without risking an additional injury or allowing the patient to move too quickly.

Often times, rehabilitation nurses begin the rehabilitation process and then transfer the patient to physical therapy where they can gain even more strength over an extended period of time. Rehabilitation nurses are also in charge of identifying potential problems during the rehabilitation phase and alerting the doctor so that adjustments can be made in the treatment plan. Because of their unique roles as both caregiver and rehabilitation nurse, they can assist the patient transition easily from constant care to having a little more independence.

What Does It Take to Become a Rehabilitation Nurse?

In order to become a rehabilitation nurse, the graduate must first obtain their nurse’s license. This involves receiving either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Nursing. Once the graduate has passed their state boards, they can begin to add the rehabilitation specialty onto their resume. While some rehabilitation classes may be offered in more traditional nursing degrees, rehabilitation involves many aspects of recovery and care that should be addressed in a separate course.

Nurses may choose to enroll in a Physical/Occupational Therapy program or they can enroll in a Rehabilitation course. Either one will provide the student with the knowledge they need to move forward. It’s important to remember there are also different types of rehabilitation that must also be considered. If the graduate has any questions, a meeting with their guidance counselor will help them break down their options. By meeting with a counselor, they may identify areas of study they had not considered before.

How Much Can a Rehabilitation Nurse Make Per Year?

Rehabilitation nurses can make an average salary of $66,000 per year. While nurses who are just starting out may receive an annual wage that is much less, their opportunity to earn more per hour will present itself as they gain more experience and seniority at their job. Graduates who enter the rehabilitation field in an entry-level position can also set themselves up for success by offering to work in several different areas so they can earn experience in a variety of processes. The more knowledge they gain through experience, the more likely it is that they will be offered the positions they want.

Being a licensed nurse requires that a specific number of continuing education hours are needed each year to remain current. Taking these classes, either in the form of another degree or as part of a certification class, will also boost the student’s earning potential. This provides opportunities to pursue other avenues of care within the rehabilitation field. The more opportunities they have within their field, they will be better able to negotiate a wage they deserve. It also gives them an opportunity to pursue highly specialized jobs such as working with professional athletes.

Do I Need to Have a Degree or Can I Just Get Certified?

In order to become a rehabilitation nurse, the graduate must have earned a nursing degree at some level and also passed their state board examination. If the student is not working in the field as a nurse and they are interested in learning about rehabilitation, a degree program at either an Associates or Bachelors level is a great place to start. Nursing is such a diverse field of study that a graduate can enter into one specialty and easily transition to another by taking additional courses.

If the nurse has already completed their degree and has already been working in the field, they may be able to apply for the position of rehabilitation nurse and learn through on-the-job training. In addition to working in the field, a nurse may also choose to complete a certification program as part of the requirement for continuing education hours. This will provide them with up to date information as well as help them keep their state license current and in good standing. Through certification, a rehabilitation nurse can get credit for the hands-on experience they receive while working on the job.

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