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What is it like to work as a nurse with patients who have injured their spinal cords or who have multiple traumas?

Rashidat Larsah, BSN, RN, SCN I, knows firsthand from working at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute ’s Spinal Cord/Multi Trauma Unit.

We asked her about her work. What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

How did you get interested in your particular field? What drew you to it? 

Originally, I did not intend to become a rehabilitation nurse. In 2005, I graduated and obtained a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certificate from the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).

While searching for a job, I encountered Kernan Hospital, about 15 minutes from my residence. I submitted an application to work in the Stroke Unit, but the position was already filled. The manager assigned there forwarded my application to the Spinal Cord Unit manager, who granted me an interview and accepted me on her team. That is how my journey started as a rehabilitation nurse, and I have since developed a strong passion and commitment to working with spinal cord patients and families.

Explain briefly what you do. What types of patients do you serve as a spinal cord/multi trauma unit nurse? What do you provide for them?

In general, a rehabilitation nurse provides care for and assists patients in their progress toward recovery, self-care, and independence. The rehabilitation nurse works as part of a multidisciplinary team in setting realistic goals and achieving a treatment plan.

Over the past two decades, I have worked in the spinal cord unit, providing care for patients suffering from injuries related to the spinal cord and teaching and advocating for patients and families.

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Did you need to get additional education for this position?

When I first started working in the spinal cord unit at what was then Kernan Hospital, I was a licensed practical nurse. After that, I successfully completed my studies to become a registered nurse.

When the opportunity to do on-the-job studies became available, I took advantage and completed a BSN degree at Notre Dame University of Maryland. I have since risen through various assignments/positions to Senior Clinical Nurse I and am now working to obtain certification as a rehabilitation nurse.

What do you like most about working in your job?

What I like most about working as a rehabilitation nurse is recognizing that the care and teaching I provide to patients and their families–plus the voice and advocacy I add–all combine to work for the healing process of the patients and their families.

One cannot help but feel fulfilled upon realizing that what may otherwise seem like a minor help given and a voice added can help patients regain and maintain their optimal health.

What are your biggest challenges?

Being a rehabilitation nurse is admittedly hard work and can present some challenges in managing the expectations of patients and their families.

However, where a nurse has the passion to care for their patients with a sense of commitment to serve others and provide care for patients with deep or long-term care needs, a rehab nurse can still find his or her work rewarding and satisfactory.

What are your greatest rewards in your work?

My greatest reward is working as part of a multidisciplinary medical team with goals to plan and follow treatment plans for patients and their families with positive patient outcomes.

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Of course, a plus is when patients and their families are satisfied with my care and make extra effort to highlight my acts of service and compassion.

While it is challenging, working as a rehabilitation nurse can be rewarding and satisfying, especially when my patients come back for visits, recognize the nurses they worked with, and smile in appreciation for the care and teaching provided to them.

Michele Wojciechowski
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