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Choosing a Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Program

May 22, 2017

There is no question that a spinal cord injury is a life-changing event.  The rehabilitation hospital/provider you choose can change your life as well.  WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital in Raleigh, NC provides highly specialized care and therapies for people with spinal cord injuries, helping them achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.

For many people, the earlier rehabilitation begins, the better the recovery and overall outcome.

At WakeMed, the Rehabilitation team begins working with patients in the acute care setting – before they even reach the Rehabilitation Hospital where the intensive therapy starts.   This is an important factor to consider when deciding on a provider and facility for spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

Below are suggestions on questions to ask a rehabilitation provider when choosing a spinal cord injury rehab program.  Whether you are in the Wake County/eastern North Carolina region or somewhere else in the U.S., we hope you find this resource helpful.

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Choosing the Right Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Program

Spinal Cord Injury Inpatient Program

  • Is the program accredited?
  • Is the program comprehensive?
  • Will I receive three or more hours of the specific therapies I need every day?
  • Do you accept patients with tracheostomies?

The WakeMed Rehabilitation Spinal Cord Injury Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).  In fact, several members of the WakeMed Rehab leadership team are surveyors for CARF, which means they see and share best rehabilitation practices throughout the country and world.

Patient Continuum of Care

The continuum of care for patients with spinal cord injuries often begins in the WakeMed Emergency Department, then continues through surgery, acute care, inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab, with additional programs such as Club REACH, a Spinal Cord Injury Support Group and peer mentoring to help with the transition back home and into the community.

Patients of the WakeMed Rehabilitation Spinal Cord Injury Program receive at least three hours of therapy a day, a minimum of 5, but often as many as 6 or 7 days of the week, which is proven to positively impact recovery.

If you or a family member has a ventilator, it is important to ask if the facility has staff who can care for them.  WakeMed does not, however Admissions representatives can help you find a facility that does.

Outpatient Program

What types of outpatient therapies are offered?

It’s important to work with your rehab physician, discharge planner and case manager to determine the right outpatient therapies to help you progress as much as possible after hospital discharge.

The WakeMed Day Treatment Program is designed for patients who need two or more types of therapy (physical, occupational, speech and/or neuropsychological) along with coordinated care that includes outpatient nursing with onsite access to rehab physicians.  Individual outpatient therapies as well as a fitness program specifically for patients with spinal cord injuries are also available. WakeMed Home Health is an option for patients who cannot leave home.

Rehab Technology

What types of rehab technology are available at your facility?

There are many types of rehab technology to help patients regain as much strength, balance and independence as possible.  Some of the technologies specifically for patients with spinal cord injuries include the Vector Gait & Safety System, the RT300 Functional Electrical Stimulation Cycle, the FSA Pressure Mapping System and additional Bioness equipment for hand functionality, thigh strength and foot function.

WakeMed was on the leading edge of making advanced EKSO® walking technology available to patients, which is now available in 130 facilities throughout the world.  We encourage you to Internet search the technologies mentioned here and other technologies for patients with spinal cord injuries.

9B7A9135Care Providers

  • Who will oversee my care?
  • Is the care well-coordinated?
  • What types of caregivers will I encounter?

Inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs) have physiatrists (physicians who specialize in rehab medicine) who oversee all the inpatient and outpatient care provided to patients with spinal cord injuries.  This is true at the WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital, which is a 98-bed IRF.

Your WakeMed Rehab Spinal Cord Injury Program care team experience begins with an Admissions representative.  A physiatrist, rehab nurses, advanced practice providers, clinical case managers, discharge planners, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, neuropsychologists, dietitians, respiratory therapists, and recreational therapists – depending on your needs – round out your team. You and your family are key members of the care team.  Care team meetings occur at least weekly; more may be scheduled as needed for a seamless care experience.

Care Quality

  • How many patients with spinal cord injuries are discharged home or somewhere else in the community rather than a nursing home?
  • What is your average Functional Independence Measure change per patient? How does that compare to other facilities in the region? State?  Nation?
  • On average, how long do patients with spinal cord injuries stay in the hospital?
  • What percentage of your patients achieves their goals?

The WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital serves 150-200 inpatients with SCIs each year.  Approximately 77% achieve their expected outcomes and are discharged to the community, rather than a hospital or nursing home.  The average length of stay for a patient with an SCI at WakeMed is 22 days.


Contact WakeMed Rehab

Please call WakeMed Rehabilitation Admissions at 919-350-7876 with your questions.  They are also available to come to your hospital room to speak with you and your family.

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