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Rehabilitation Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

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Rehabilitation nurses assist patients to recover from long-term physical disabilities and chronic diseases. Individuals considering pursuing careers as rehabilitation nurses should research the profession before deciding to take the necessary steps to pursue careers in the field. Our guide includes information on rehabilitation nurses, such as their professional responsibilities, work environments, necessary skills, and education requirements, along with salary and job growth data for professionals in the field.

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What is a Rehabilitation Nurse?

Rehabilitation nurses provide nursing care to those with chronic illnesses and physical disabilities. These nurses dedicate their careers to helping patients regain their strength, health, and independence. Rehabilitation nurses work with patients and their families to tailor rehabilitation plans that work best for them, promoting well-being and positive development. They set long-term and short-term goals for their patients, along with helping them to reach those defined goals.

  • What Do Rehabilitation Nurses Do?

    These nurses help patients surpass expectations and reach goals as they strive to fully recover the use of body parts and functions. This highly rewarding career is also physically stressful as it commonly requires some heavy lifting.

    Rehabilitation nurses, responsible for educating and assisting patients with chronic illnesses and injuries, help patients get back into their normal routines and lives after experiencing serious illnesses or injuries. These nurses teach rehabilitation nursing methods to help clients and their families use the self-care skills they need to accomplish total rehabilitation. These nurses also help patients achieve specific goals pertinent to their rehabilitation. Other responsibilities include sharing important information occurring in disease processes and performing hands-on nursing care.

  • Where Do Rehabilitation Nurses Work?

    Rehabilitation nurses can work in many different settings, including patients’ homes, outpatient rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and clinics. These nurses also often work for insurance companies and educational institutions. Rehabilitation nurses who work in patients’ homes provide crucial assistance by providing complete and total nursing care to ensure patients receive the highest quality of care.

  • Skills That Could Affect Rehabilitation Nurse Salaries

    Rehabilitation nurses often work with patients who become easily discouraged and frustrated, so maintaining a positive disposition is vital. These nurses should possess strong communication skills to regularly communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals.

    Rehabilitation nurses must be both supportive and encouraging, keeping their patients in good spirits, motivated to put the work into their rehabilitation. These nurses should be personable and compassionate, understanding their patients and helping them feel more comfortable with the process. Patience and determination are key with rehabilitation nurses. These nurses should be kind, considerate, and maintain strong critical-thinking skills to act on their feet.

How to Become a Rehabilitation Nurse

The first step to becoming a rehabilitation nurse is earning a degree in nursing, whether at the associate or bachelor’s level. Once individuals earn their degrees, they can pursue their registered nurse (RN) license by completing and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs. After earning RN licensure, each individual can complete two years of professional experience in the rehabilitation nursing field and pursue certification opportunities.

Many rehabilitation nurses pursue advanced practice roles, requiring them to earn an advanced degree at the master’s or doctoral levels. Advancing their degree allows professionals to seek more job opportunities and higher salary options.


Individuals interested in pursuing careers as rehabilitation nurses must earn their RN licenses first. To earn an RN license, each nurse must complete either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Nurses who want to pursue advanced practice opportunities can pursue their master of science in nursing or doctoral nursing programs.

Those who follow the ADN path typically earn their degrees within two years of full-time enrollment, while students following the BSN path usually take four years. RNs can also consider postgraduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in rehabilitation science, an executive master’s in rehabilitation administration, or a master of health science in rehabilitation services.

Training and Certification

Rehabilitation nurses can expand their employment opportunities and earning potential by pursuing the certified rehabilitation registered nurse (CRRN) credential. The credential requires each professional to pass an exam and complete two years of rehabilitation nursing professional experience.

Rehabilitation nurses can earn their CRRN credential through the Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board. The board functions as an independent component of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. Each eligible applicant must possess a current, unencumbered RN license and hold between 1-2 years of practice as an RN in the rehabilitation nursing field. Any professional experience must be completed within five years of completing the exam.

Earning certification allows professionals to stand out among other candidates. While not all employers in the field require nurses to hold certification, many prefer to hire employees with these credentials.

Rehabilitation Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

Rehabilitation nurse salary information can vary depending on experience level and location. According to PayScale, the national median salary for the occupation is $67,162. Entry-level rehabilitation nurses receive an average annual salary of $55,660, while those late in their careers enjoy average salaries of $68,307. Rehabilitation nursing is a specialty for RNs, who experience the highest salary opportunities and employment levels in California, with South Dakota being the state with the highest concentration of jobs for the profession.

RNs receive the highest salary opportunities in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry and the highest concentration of jobs in the general and surgical-medical hospital industries.

Median Salary for Rehabilitation Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: $55,660
  • Early Career: $56,700
  • Mid Career: $62,088
  • Experienced: $67,704
  • Late Career: $68,307
  • Source: PayScale

    Related Job Salaries
    Registered Nurse Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse, Emergency Room Registered Nurse, Critical Care
    $63,393 $27,891 $43,528 $66,391 $72,656

    Source: PayScale

    Rehabilitation Nurse Resources

    • Association of Rehabilitation Nurses ARN aims to transform healthcare by integrating concepts of rehabilitation nursing into care across the country. With more than 5,000 professional RN members, the association advances and promotes the rehabilitation nursing profession across practice settings like long-term care hospitals, nursing facilities, academia, and home health agencies.
    • Association for Nursing Professional Development ANPD represents the practice of nursing through professional development and enhancing healthcare outcomes. ANPD focuses on leadership, role clarity, and managing transitions for new nurses and professionals already in the field.
    • American Medical Association As the largest association of physicians and medical students in the U.S., AMA promotes the science and art of medicine to improve public health. This association publishes the Journal of the American Medical Association and a list of codes that act as the standard method for identifying physician and practice specialties in the United States.
    • Job Search This site’s job search function allows nurses to seek out employment opportunities in their particular areas of interest. Nurses can input job titles or specialties to hone their search terms. Professionals can also search by location, adding in distance parameters to ensure they only browse job opportunities within areas.
    • American Nurses’ Association Representing all RNs in the U.S., ANA functions as the leading organization in the field. This association supports the interests of RNs from all disciplines and at all stages in their careers. ANA fosters high standards of nursing practice while promoting an ethical and safe work environment.
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