How to Become a Rehabilitation Nurse: Job Outlook, Salary, Certification

Nurse assists older man out of bedA rehabilitation nurse helps patients with chronic illnesses or long-term physical disabilities cope with limitations and reach their full physical potential. The rehabilitation nurse works with patients and family members to create a recovery plan that includes short- and long-term goals that help the patient live as independently as possible.

Rehabilitation nurses work with patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. These nurses provide rehabilitative nursing care to patients after surgery, accidents, strokes, birth defects or other disabling conditions. Many rehabilitation nurses develop long-lasting relationships with patients and families.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Rehabilitation Nurse
Education Requirements
Rehabilitation Nurse Job Description
Personality Traits
Career Options
Rehabilitation Nurse Certification
Professional Organizations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide specific information regarding salary and job numbers and outlook for rehabilitation nurses but the BLS does offer an overview of registered nurses, who may work as rehabilitation nurses.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

Quickly compare salary and job statistics in your area

1. Select a State

2. Select a City

3. Select a Job Title

Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $61,000
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary courtesy of

How to become a rehabilitation nurse

To work as a rehabilitation nurse, the individual:

  • Must earn an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited school of nursing
  • Must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in musculoskeletal disorders, neurological injuries and communication
  • May pursue voluntary certification as a Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN) from Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board (RNCB) through the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN)

Education requirements

To work as a rehabilitation nurse, an individual must already have graduated from an accredited school or nursing, passed the national licensure exam and hold a current, unrestricted license to practice nursing.

Nurses may pursue additional education and certification as a Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN).

Job description

A rehabilitation nurse provides nursing care to patients, manages care, responds to changes in condition and offers support to patients and their families. Depending on the facility, the rehabilitation nurse performs a variety of nursing functions, such as measuring and recording vital signs, administering medications, starting and maintaining intravenous fluid (IV) treatments, wound care, range of motion exercises, respiratory care and ostomy care.

A rehabilitation nurse shows patients and their families how to adapt to temporary or permanent disabilities in order to help families return to their daily lives. The rehabilitation nurse also prepares patients and families for challenges associated with rehabilitation and recovery.

The rehabilitation nurse plays many roles on a daily basis, including teacher, caregiver, collaborator and patient advocate. A rehabilitation nurse can serve as bedside nurses, nurse managers or chief nursing officers, case managers, supervisors, wound clinicians, infection control nurses and nurse educators.

Personality traits:

  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Good communication skills

Rehabilitation nurses report to nursing supervisors or department managers.

Career options

Typical workplaces for rehabilitation nurses include:

  • Acute care hospitals
  • Specialty rehabilitation hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Outpatient rehabilitation facilities

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts jobs for registered nurses (RNs), who may work as rehabilitation nurses, to increase 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The number of jobs for rehabilitation nurses may increase faster than other RN specialties because the elderly population, who are most likely to suffer strokes or need surgery, is rising quickly.

Certification information

Applicants may pursue certification as Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN) from the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. Certification is not necessary to work as a rehabilitation nurse but highly desirable in that it shows the holder has special knowledge and expertise in providing rehabilitative nursing care.

To be eligible to take the certification exam, applicants must have a current, unrestricted RN license and have practiced as a registered nurse for at least two years in a rehabilitative setting within five years of application, or one year as an RN in a rehabilitative setting and one year of advanced study in nursing.

Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN) certification is valid for five years.

Professional organizations

Association of Rehabilitation Nurses: