It is critically important to seek out a rehabilitation center and staff that specialize in treating SCI. High quality rehabilitation programs are often located in facilities devoted exclusively to providing rehabilitation services, or in hospitals with designated SCI units.
In-patient SCI rehabilitation programs are different from the hospital programs that provide initial treatment. Rehab programs must offer people a wide variety of skills and must address complex social and community issues. To do this, a rehabilitation team is used.
Such teams are usually headed by a physiatrist, a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. The team should include social workers, occupational and physical therapists, recreational therapists, rehabilitation nurses, rehabilitation psychologists, vocational counselors, nutritionists, and other specialists. Team members are jointly responsible for working with individuals and their families to develop effective rehabilitation and discharge plans.
A program manager from the team should serve as a contact, meeting regularly with the rehab client to discuss the rehabilitation plan and address personal or family concerns.
Many factors contribute to a successful return to the community following a spinal cord injury, but the education and active involvement of the newly injured person and the family is crucial.
The following checklists can help the injured person and family choose the right rehabilitation center. They are recommended by the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) and the Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center.
Beyond the checklists, rely on your own impressions. Ask yourself:
- Was the staff helpful when information was requested?
- Was I offered a tour of the center? If so, what were my impressions?
- Did I have an opportunity to talk to people currently in the program? If so, how did they feel about it?