What is a Rehabilitation Nurse?

July 1, 2015

I get asked this question fairly often.
My name is Jacqueline Brigandi and I am the Staff Development Coordinator at Helen Hayes Hospital and a Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse, CRRN for short. Maybe this excerpt from our Hospital Plan for Nursing Care can shed some light on it for you…

The professional nurse who practices rehabilitation nursing as a generalist may function in a variety of institutional and community settings. The role a nurse assumes depends on basic nursing preparation; specialized formal or informal education; and clinical experiences with individuals and with the family of those individuals who have disabilities, potential disabilities, or chronic illness. Current rehabilitation technologies and therapies require unique knowledge and skills that may be obtained through self-study and continued education programs. Quality continuing education programs are available through ARN and many of its local chapters and through many institutions with rehabilitation nurses.

The rehabilitation nurse exemplifies a specialized knowledge and skill set that is comprehensive and broad in scope with roots in both professional nursing and rehabilitation functional care concepts. In addition to administering specialized nursing care, the rehabilitation nurse spends a significant amount of time reinforcing patient learning from other disciplines. It is essential that all professional registered nurses practicing rehabilitation nursing possess the basic knowledge and skills that enable them to do collective appropriate assessment data for each rehabilitation patient; identify significant problems; establish appropriate diagnosis; and set short and long term goals and identify outcomes that reflect an understanding of the impact of the disability or chronic illness on the planning, delivery and evaluation of care within the limits of the available economic resources.

Certification in rehabilitation nursing (Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse – CRRN), which may be obtained through the Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board (RNCB), validates the acquisition of such knowledge and skills. Nelson and colleagues (2007) landmark study found an inverse relationship between the percentage of nurses certified in rehabilitation nursing and length of stay (LOS). Specifically, a 1% increase in CRRNs on the unit was associated with an approximated 6% decrease in LOS. This finding supports the value in recruiting and retaining nurses with specialty certification, as well as supporting existing staff in efforts to obtain certification. Preparation for the certification examination is supported by a wide range of educational products by ARN and other quality preparation classes offered through the ARN chapters, private institutions and rehabilitation healthcare organizations.

-Jacqueline Brigandi, MSN,CRRN
Staff Development Coordinator, Nursing