About ARN


By 1974, the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN) was formed by Susan Novak with support from Lutheran General Hospital located in Park Ridge, Illinois, and nursing, which had always been involved in rehabilitation, formally became recognized as a rehabilitation specialty. ARN was formally recognized as a specialty nursing organization by the American Nurses Association in 1976.  The CRRN certification program is now administered by the Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board (RNCB), an autonomous component of ARN. The CRRN program is accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties.


A Brief History of the Specialty

Rehabilitation, as an interdisciplinary healthcare specialty, grew out of the wars that occurred during the 20th century. Many soldiers, young men for the most part, survived injury during the war, but faced serious disability. As a result, military hospitals established rehabilitation units that focused extensive efforts on returning these young men to society. Soon, rehabilitation units and hospitals sprang up around the country and the interdisciplinary specialty of rehabilitation gained importance.

Additional information on ARN, rehabilitation and rehabilitation nursing can be found in chapter one of The Specialty Practice of Rehabilitation Nursing: A Core Curriculum, (7th edition). You may find the ARN Network article, "35 Years of Progress" about founding ARN member and past ARN president, Albiana Doll, RN, an interesting glimpse into the evolution of rehabilitation practice over the past 35 years.

Significant Dates in ARN History

•    1974 The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN) was formed by Susan Novak with help from Lutheran General Hospital, located in Park Ridge, IL.
•    1976 ARN was formally recognized as a specialty nursing organization by the American Nurses Association.
•    1980 The ARN journal, originally established in 1975, was renamed Rehabilitation Nursing.
•    1981 Rehabilitation Nursing: Concepts and Practice-A Core Curriculum first edition was published.
•    1984 The Certified Rehabilitation Nurse (CRRN®) exam was first administered.
•    1986 The Rehabilitation Nursing Institute, originally established in 1977, was restructured and renamed the Rehabilitation Nursing Foundation (RNF).
•    2007 The landmark study, "Nurse Staffing and Patient Outcomes in Inpatient Rehabilitation Settings" was completed and the results were published in RNJ. The study was funded by RNF and the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Patient Safety Center of Inquiry.
•    2009 ARN celebrates 35 years of progress with an anniversary party at the Albuquerque Museum of Art.
•    2012 ARN updates its association logo.
•    2013 ARN releases the Essential Role of the Rehabilitation Nurse in Facilitating Care Transitions white paper.

What Do Rehabilitation Nurses Do?

Rehabilitation nurses help individuals across the lifespan who are affected by chronic illness or physical disability to achieve their greatest potential, adapt to their disabilities, and work toward productive, independent lives. They take a holistic approach to meeting patients’ medical, vocational, educational, environmental, and spiritual needs.

Rehabilitation nurses work with individuals and their families soon after the onset of a disabling injury or chronic illness. They continue to provide support in the form of patient and family education and empower these individuals when they go home or return to work or school. The rehabilitation nurse often teaches patients and their caregivers how to access systems and resources. Rehabilitation nursing is a philosophy of care, not a work setting or a phase of treatment. Rehabilitation nurses base their practice on rehabilitative and restorative principles by
•    managing complex medical issues
•    collaborating with other professionals or disciplines
•    providing ongoing patient/caregiver education
•    setting goals for maximal independence
•    establishing plans of care to maintain optimal wellness

Rehabilitation Nurses Practice in All Settings

•    Freestanding rehabilitation facilities
•    Hospitals (inpatient rehabilitation units)
•    Long-term subacute care facilities/ skilled nursing facilities
•    Long-term acute care facilities
•    Comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities
•    Private practice
•    Home healthcare agencies
•    Clinics and day rehabilitation programs
•    Community and government agencies
•    Insurance companies and health maintenance organizations
•    Schools and universities

Why Hire a Rehabilitation Nurse?

Rehabilitation nursing and rehabilitation/ restoration principles are more important to the healthcare system than ever before. The rehabilitation nursing specialty has measurable, functional outcome goals for patients, which rehabilitation nurses use in planning and evaluating the effectiveness of patient care. Rehabilitation nurses have excellent functional assessment skills and take a comprehensive approach to care. They act as multisystem integrators and team leaders, working with physicians, therapists, and others to solve problems and promote patients’ maximal independence. Rehabilitation nurses are particularly skilled at working with others to adapt ongoing care to the resources available.

Rehabilitation nurses act not only as caregivers but also as coordinators, collaborators, counselors, and case managers. The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses’ Special Interest Groups have developed role descriptions to educate employers, patients, and others about the various roles of rehabilitation nurses and the skills they bring to all settings across the continuum of care. Rehabilitation Nurse Role descriptions are available here or by calling 800.229.7530.