Nursing Improves Brain Rehabilitation Outcomes

The goal of any brain rehabilitation program is to maximize the patients’ ability to return to their homes and communities to live as independently as possible. Nursing plays an integral role in helping the patient become more independent.

The nursing staff at Pate is an important part of the interdisciplinary team. Nursing care for patients entering a brain rehabilitation program has a unique level of complexity due to the wide-ranging effects of acquired brain injuries.

Some patients are unable to communicate, others may retain cognitive skills but lose some physical capacity, while others may display normal physical attributes but experience diminished perception, memory and reasoning skills. Acquired brain injuries also often affect a patient’s personality and behavior, causing him to be depressed, combative, hyperemotional or overanxious.

Unique nursing and patient goals must be developed in consultation with the patient and family, taking into consideration the type and severity of the brain injury, educational needs of the patient and or family, co-morbidities, real and perceived health risks of the patient and the patient’s level of independence.

Living independently means that the patient and/or family must be able to manage medications and health needs. Nurses evaluate the patient at time of admission and determine the patient’s health goals. While in treatment, nurses teach patients how to manage their medications and educate them on their disease process.

For example, if a patient admits with stroke due to high blood pressure, nursing teaches the patient the range for normal blood pressure, how to check his own blood pressure, signs and symptoms of stroke, what to do if he experiences symptoms of stroke, when to call the doctor and how to report symptoms. Another example is a patient with incontinence. Nurses often work with the interdisciplinary therapy team on a bowel and bladder program designed to minimize or eliminate episodes of incontinence. This is extremely important because it helps patients feel more confident when they are out in the real world.

Nurses continue patient and family education throughout the discharge process as well. They go over medications with patients and families and continue teaching them what they are taking, why they are taking medications, when to take medications and how to re-order medications. Prior to discharge, nursing encourages the patient to get established with a primary care physician so that there will be continuation of care.

Nursing and the interdisciplinary team at Pate strive to empower patients and families to care for themselves!

Natalie Ward, BSN, RN