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CNAs Play Vital Role in Patient Rehabilitation by Joseph Freeman, OTR/L, CEAS

October 10, 2014

As our population continues to age there is an ever-growing need for quality care among the elderly.  The number of people with acute, chronic, or debilitating conditions has steadily increased.  This has created a greater focus on physical rehabilitation of those people.  This, in turn, has created an increased demand for effective and efficient rehab programs in all areas of healthcare.


Patient rehabilitation is performed by a variety of professionals, including Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants, Physical Therapists and Physical Therapy Assistants, and Speech-Language Pathologists.  However, one of the most vital roles in patient rehabilitation is performed by nursing assistants.


In many settings nursing assistants are often the primary caregivers.  They typically have more hands-on contact with patients than other staff members, and as a result are usually more familiar with the functional status of those patients.


Nursing assistants provide basic care and help with activities of daily living, or ADLs.  Their duties include cleaning and/or bathing patients, assisting patients with dressing and toileting, and serving meals and/or feeding patients.  Additional duties include measuring patients’ vital signs and reporting that information to nurses, as well as turning, repositioning, and transferring patients.


Because nursing assistants have so much hands-on contact with patients they are routinely relied upon to provide accurate information regarding patients’ abilities and status by rehab professionals.  They may also sometimes assist rehab professionals with patient transfers and mobility, as well as transporting patients to rehab areas and group treatment activities within settings.


Finally, one of the most important services nursing assistants may perform is Restorative care.  Once a patient has completed his or her rehab program that patient may be referred to Restorative nursing for continued care and/or maintenance to prevent or inhibit loss of progress.  These are programs which are often vital to maintaining patient function.  Such programs may include walking patients, performing range of motion (ROM) exercises, application and removal of splints or braces according to an established schedule, and setting up items or assisting with routines to facilitate patients’ ADL performance.  Restorative programs are often carried out by nursing assistants.


In many settings nursing assistants play a major role in successful patient rehabilitation.  They are consistently relied upon by various rehab professionals, and often help patients achieve and/or maintain the highest level of function to ensure good quality of life.


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