What Does A Rehabilitation Nurse Manager Do?

Rehabilitation nurse managers have primary responsibility for implementing the mission, vision, policies, goals, and objectives of the organization and the nursing/clinical services within their area(s). Rehabilitation nurse managers are the liaisons between rehabilitation nursing, other disciplines, and administration. In the liaison role, rehabilitation nurse managers promote the philosophy and goals of the organization, the development of team relationships, and congruent rehabilitation practices. Rehabilitation nurse managers allocate available resources for the efficient delivery of rehabilitation care and participate in executive decision making related to departmental functions. Rehabilitation nurses may function in the nurse manager role in a variety of healthcare settings throughout the continuum of care.

Definition of a Rehab Nurse Manager

A registered nurse holding primary accountability for the management of (a) rehabilitation unit(s) or area(s) within a healthcare institution, agency or ambulatory care setting and for services provided to recipients.

Qualifications to Become a Rehab Nurse Manager

  • Progressive experience in clinical rehabilitation nursing and nursing management
  • A minimum of a Bachelor's degree in nursing is preferred
  • Certification in rehabilitation nursing (or obtained as soon as eligible)
  • Strong clinical, leadership, and management skills; good interpersonal and interdisciplinary relationships; a high level of initiative and creative problem-solving ability

Responsibilities of the Rehab Nurse Manager

Rehabilitation Care and Services

  • Provides input to the strategic planning process for the facility; implements strategies and programs for rehabilitation care that are consistent with the mission, vision, policies, goals, and objectives of the agency
  • Develops a plan for the rehabilitation setting that focuses on the provision of high-quality, cost-effective care for the patient with a disability or chronic illness consistent with the facility's or agency's strategic planning
  • Evaluates the quality and appropriateness of care and effectiveness and efficiency of systems within the rehabilitation setting; institutes practice changes based on evaluation and supports interdisciplinary performance improvement efforts
  • Ensures that current rehabilitation research findings and rehabilitation evidence-based practices are incorporated into clinical practice and delivery of care
  • Maintains knowledge of trends in rehabilitation and healthcare and helps staff identify the impact of these trends on the delivery of rehabilitation care
  • Promotes institutional and professional rehabilitation nursing and rehabilitation values, goals, and objectives among nursing staff and interdisciplinary team members (e.g., patients' achievement of independence, maintenance of optimal health and quality of life and avoidance of further complications of disability, and return to an active role in the discharge setting)
  • Encourages rehabilitation nursing personnel to use the nursing process, critical thinking, and ethical practice in managing patient care and provides for continuity from admission through discharge and successful reintegration into family, community, and/or alternative discharge setting
  • Ensure that nurses have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to perform professional responsibilities that require preparation beyond their basic academic programs, in complete recognition of the relationship of nurse competencies, performance standards, review mechanisms, and educational preparation to patient safety and care outcomes, ensuring responsibility and accountability for nursing practice and professional behavior
  • Supports the rehabilitation nursing staff in performing the clinical roles of patient educator, caregiver, counsellor, consultant, and patient advocate
  • Supports the interdisciplinary team model within the continuum of care
  • Collaborates with physicians and other professional disciplines in developing and implementing clinical rehabilitation programs. Provides an environment and resources that enable rehabilitation staff to participate actively in setting goals, defining programs, and evaluating outcomes for clients with disabilities
  • Promotes collegial relationships with members of all disciplines based on mutual respect and support     
  • Helps members of the professional interdisciplinary team to understand and value the unique contributions of each rehabilitation profession
  • Participates in interdisciplinary committees and other activities within the facility or agency
  • Encourages an environment that supports rehabilitation nursing, allied health and medical students/staff as they learn and practice rehabilitation skills

Personnel and Resource Management

  • Holds overall accountability for the management of clinical rehabilitation nursing practice and of allied health practice where included in scope of role
  • Provides input into and maintains appropriate staffing levels and skill mix among staff members
  • Is accountable for the management of direct report personnel functions; seeks to select and retain an appropriate skill mix of qualified, competent, patient-oriented rehabilitation personnel with diverse backgrounds
  • Provides for assignments that are commensurate with the level of education and demonstrated competencies of personnel, using available resources effectively and appropriately to provide efficient, safe, and effective care of rehabilitation patients
  • Defines and oversees the orientation, education, credentialing, and continuing development of licensed and unlicensed staff involved in providing patient care and other services, in collaboration with a clinical nurse specialist and/or an educator, as available
  • Acts as a role model, mentor, and coach to the rehabilitation settings staff and provides developmental opportunities for staff to acquire clinical rehabilitation skills and expertise; encourages staff to seek advanced preparation and rehabilitation specialty certification
  • Defines, implements, and evaluates the care delivery system used in the rehabilitation environment
  • Participates and facilitates participation of staff in nursing and organizational policy formulation and decision making
  • Prepares and monitors capital and operational budgets, including personnel budgets, for the rehabilitation setting; regularly reviews expenses and revenue; and addresses, justifies and corrects variances, as requested

Personal Accountability

  • Assumes accountability for remaining current regarding the standards of care established by professions and organizations (e. g., American Nurses Association, the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses, and professional allied health organizations, as appropriate) regulatory bodies (e.g., Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations [JCAHO], CARF the Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission); and government (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid); is able to determine implications for the rehabilitation setting and responds using flexibility and creativity to promote compliance
  • Supports research activities in the general field of rehabilitation as well as in rehabilitation nursing
  • Continues to advance personal professional rehabilitation management skills
  • Advocates for persons with chronic illness and/or disability through personal involvement in professional and other support organizations and community activities
  • Is an active member of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses and serves as an advocate for rehabilitation and rehabilitation nursing


American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) (1992). Role and functions of the hospital nurse manager.

American Nurses Association (ANA) (2009). Nurse Administration: Scope and Standards of Practice.

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

This role description was originally developed by the Administrative/Management Special Interest Group of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses in 1994. Subsequent revisions were made in 2011, 2015.

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