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The inaugural group of students in the rehabilitation nursing elective completed the course in May 2023.

Ready for Rehab Nursing

Elective takes students inside rehab hospital

Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston’s location within the Texas Medical Center affords students access to an abundance of unparalleled clinical opportunities. One elective gives undergraduate students a glimpse of how patients learn to heal and adapt to a new life following traumatic injuries, strokes, spinal cord injuries, or other life-altering injuries and illnesses.

“TIRR Memorial Hermann approached us because they wanted to attract top-performing, compassionate nursing students to rehabilitation nursing,” said Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Erica Yu, PhD, RN. The hospital has been designated a national rehabilitation innovation center. “This elective aligns with our development of the new Essentials focus on population health as set out by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.”

Cizik School of Nursing faculty worked jointly with experts in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other fields to develop the curriculum. Top students in the accelerated Pacesetter BSN program can take the course as an elective in either of their last two semesters. They receive a stipend from the hospital to cover the cost of the two-credit-hour course, and most classes are taught at the rehabilitation hospital.

“You don’t really learn until you are on the job how rehabilitation integrates with the other disciplines, and through this elective you get a taste of that,” said Nicole Harrison, MBA, BSN, RN, vice president and chief nursing officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann. “Even if they don’t choose rehab nursing to begin their career, now they know about it. The more people we can expose, the more word of mouth we generate and the greater pool of exceptional nurses who might choose rehabilitation as a career path.”

Jessica Tankersley, BSN, RN, and Christy Whaley, BSN, RN, were among the first students to take the course before they graduated in May 2023. Tankersley had visited the hospital the previous semester as part of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Fellowship in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

“At the end of our fellowship, we really wanted an experience where we could see what happened behind the scenes,” Tankersley said. The interprofessional collaboration at the hospital impressed both students, as did the nurses’ key role in caring for patients and their families between rehabilitation sessions.

The inaugural semester was so successful that TIRR Memorial Hermann established a dedicated educational unit for the summer term, Yu said. Sixteen students spent two days a week at the hospital to complete clinical hours required as part of the standard BSN curriculum. In addition, the elective continues to be offered in the fall and spring semesters.

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