What Does a Rehabilitation Nurse Educator Do?

The rehabilitation nurse educator functions in a variety of settings to develop and maintain the competency of nurses who care for individuals and groups with physical disability and chronic illness. The ultimate goal of the rehabilitation nurse educator is to support the provision of quality care to these individuals. The rehabilitation nurse educator assesses initial and ongoing learning needs, plans and implements programs to meet these needs, and evaluates the outcomes of plans on the learner, the organization, and patient care. The rehabilitation nurse educator serves as a role model by demonstrating how to apply theory and incorporate research findings into clinical practice.

The rehabilitation nurse educator accomplishes many of these functions through individual or collective activities of staff nurses, managers, and other interdisciplinary team members. The rehabilitation nurse educator recognizes that cultivating and maintaining collegial relationships among nurses and other interdisciplinary team members is important in achieving educational goals.

The role of rehabilitation nurse educator often includes responsibilities intertwined with education. The role of rehabilitation nurse educator continues to evolve and individual responsibilities may vary to meet the demands of the practice setting and organizational goals.

Nurse Educator Resources

The rehabilitation nurse educator uses the principles of rehabilitation nursing as defined within the established Standards and Scope of Rehabilitation Nursing Practice developed by the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN). ARN's The Specialty Practice of Rehabilitation Nursing: Core Curriculum provides a comprehensive guide to the practice of rehabilitation nursing for various patient populations. ARN's Competency Model for Professional Rehabilitation Nursing includes domains, competencies, and levels of proficiency and is used as a framework to guide rehabilitation nursing practice. The rehabilitation nurse educator is also aware of position statements and white papers developed by ARN for the purpose of advocacy for our patient population and our profession. Each of these resources influences the learning materials developed by the rehabilitation nurse educator.

Responsibilities of the Rehabilitation Nurse Educator

The scope of the rehabilitation nurse educators role encompasses the following activities:

  • Orientation: Designs programs to assess and develop competencies to equip the learner with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to function in the rehabilitation setting
  • Staff development: Assists the learner to apply theory to practice and to maintain and enhance competency
  • Continuing education: Designs programs that enhance the practice of rehabilitation nursing; assists the learner to comply with licensure and certification requirements
  • In-service education: Designs programs to increase competence in a specific area of practice, such as training in the use of new equipment and review of policies, procedures, and protocols that are required for the learner to function within a variety rehabilitation settings
  • Student affiliation: Coordinates student placements, orients students, and organizes preceptorships for undergraduate and graduate students
  • Patient education: Organizes patient education activities, instructs learners as to educational strategies, and/or assists in the development of patient education materials

Roles and Duties of the Rehabilitation Nurse Educator

The roles of the rehabilitation nurse educator include, but are not limited to, those outlined below:

Program Planner

  • Assesses learning needs through direct observation, formal needs assessment, and program evaluation or other organizational activity reports
  • Evaluates the overall staff development needs of the organization and the consumer
  • Develops programs consistent with organizational philosophy, purposes, and goals
  • Designs programs to maximize outcomes using evidenced-based practice and minimize costs
  • Develops systems to measure the impact of programs and learning activities on individuals, groups, consumers, and the organization
  • Uses quality improvement strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of educational activities


  • Incorporates evidence based practice in their process to train/educate new nurses in the rehabilitation specialty
  • Facilitates learning opportunities according to the nurse level to maximize the growth of the nurse in the rehabilitation setting
  • Identifies and secures appropriate equipment and materials required to meet the learner's needs effectively
  • Addresses the staff development and in-service educational needs of individuals and groups
  • Designs educational courses, resources and learning experiences based on adult learning principles, using current nursing theory and the standards of rehabilitation nursing practice
  • Fosters a working environment that promotes open communication and facilitates the professional growth and development of the learner
  • Provides learning experiences that are consistent with expected educational outcomes

Record Keeper

  • Maintains educational records according to the requirements of organizational accrediting bodies and regulatory agencies
  • Develops reports regarding the effectiveness of programs
  • Provides a structure for disseminating appropriate educational information to individual learners, management, accrediting bodies, and regulating agencies

Role Model

  • Engages in the overall quality improvement process of the organization
  • Promotes evidence based practice by demonstrating methods for gathering, evaluating, and applying research findings to rehabilitation nursing practice
  • Demonstrates how to apply theoretical information to rehabilitation nursing practice
  • Advocates for people with disabilities within the organization and the community at large
  • Models the provision of holistic rehabilitation nursing care in the least restrictive, most independent manner

Patient Advocate

  • Provides educational resources that positively influence patient care outcomes
  • Prepares practitioners to meet evolving healthcare trends while ensuring that practice is consistent with patients' rights
  • Provides a model for self-advocacy for patient/family
  • Advocates for all persons living with disability within the facility and in the community at large

Team Member

  • Uses the consultation process to facilitate the achievement of goals set forth by the individual learner, the department, and the organization
  • Uses interdisciplinary collaboration to meet the entire rehabilitation team's educational needs and to ensure the appropriate use of educational resources

Nursing Leader

  • Supports and demonstrates lifelong learning
  • Acts as an agent of change within the organization, the profession, and the community at large
  • Contributes to the development of a department's and/or an organization's mission, vision and values
  • Offers an educational perspective in all endeavors that affect nursing practice patient-centered care, and positive patient outcomes
  • Promotes the rehabilitation perspective in nursing via presentations, publications and advocacy


Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (2014). Standards & Scope of Rehabilitation Nursing Practice, (6th ed.). Chicago, IL.

Jacelon, Cynthia S. (Ed.). (2011). The Specialty Practice of Rehabilitation Nursing: A Core Curriculum (6th ed.), Glenview, IL: Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.

Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (2014). ARN Competency Model for Professional Rehabilitation Nursing. Chicago, IL.

This role description was originally developed by the Educators Special Interest Group of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. Revisions were made in 2011, 2015.

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