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Experiences of nurses working in a stroke rehabilitation unit


  • Susan Barreca,

    1. Susan Barreca MSc PTReg Assistant Clinical Professor School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University Research Clinician Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Services, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Seanne Wilkins

    1. Seanne Wilkins PhD OTReg Associate Professor School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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S. Barreca: e-mail:


Title. Experiences of nurses working in a stroke rehabilitation unit.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore the perceptions, beliefs and feelings of a group of nurses who provided care to individuals admitted to a stroke rehabilitation unit.

Background.  Following a stroke, survivors should ideally be referred to multidisciplinary inpatient rehabilitation programmes, which attain better outcomes compared to the care provided on general medical wards. However, to achieve these outcomes, team members must work closely together. Communication problems have been reported in these teams, and other members may consider that nurses do not practise functional activities with patients.

Methods.  An interpretive phenomenological approach was adopted. Eight nurses in one Canadian stroke rehabilitation unit were interviewed during 2004–2005 about their experiences of providing care to stroke survivors.

Findings.  The nurses enjoyed giving this type of care, feeling that their role was pivotal to the rehabilitation process. At times, they found it difficult to let patients struggle to complete their activities of daily living. The nurses felt that lack of resources, including time, contributed to stroke survivors being short-changed in their rehabilitation nursing care. Despite holding strong views that others devalued their role within the stroke team, the nurses retained positive attitudes.

Conclusion.  Stroke teams need to recognize the constraints nurses experience in fulfilling their stroke rehabilitation role in order to foster the collegial support that could contribute to a more interactive and respectful work environment. They also need to consider ways to increase the job satisfaction of nurses working in stroke rehabilitation settings.