Six key takeaways from the 2019 ARN REACH conference

Nursing Professional Development

For the past 13 years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the annual REACH conference put on by the Association of Rehabilitation Nursing, and every year I come back rejuvenated about the future of rehabilitation nursing. This year, I was proud to attend the conference with nearly 100 other Encompass Health nurses, 25 of which presented posters and three who presented best practices on a variety of post-acute nursing topics. Watching our nurses learn from and teach others is inspiring to see, as they are an integral part in leading the way for the rehabilitation nursing field. 

While the REACH conference never disappoints in terms of the variety of content topics it offers, here are a few of my favorite learnings from the week. 

  1. Opening keynote: Encompass Health was honored to sponsor Trisha Meili’s inspirational message about how the mind heals the body and how the body can in turn heal the mind. Known as the “Central Park Jogger,” Meili was brutally attacked in 1989 and left to die. Her attack caused traumatic brain injury that, along with other injuries, led to physical and cognitive dysfunction. In her keynote address, she expressed heartfelt thanks to the nurses who cared for her during her long road to recovery and extolled all the rehabilitation nurses who care for patients during a very vulnerable and difficult time and help them to reclaim their lives.
  2. Healthcare advocacy: There were several sessions on healthcare advocacy this year. It was nice to dig into the many ways rehab nurses can participate in advocacy from the local level to the state and national levels. Though a lot of nurses may think advocacy must be politically based, that’s not always the case. A great place to start is getting involved with local associations such as your local chapters of ARN, the American Stroke Association or American Heart Association. 
  3. Leadership: One of my favorite sessions focused on initiatives to improve the work environment for staff, ‘Fostering a Healthy Work Environment for Nurses’ by our own Coleen Rossi, chief nursing officer at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Toms River. Nurses at all levels long to be involved, but sometimes as nursing leaders, we get too focused on the big picture that we don’t often hear solutions to situations impacting our staff’s day to day. Rossi found a solution through the local nurse leadership organization that helped the team learn how to engage the staff, improving the healthy workplace. 
  4. Music therapy: The session titled ‘Utilizing Music Therapy to Aid Rehab Patients with Recovery’ was excellent. The presenter led an informative and interactive session where attendees had the opportunity to participate in demonstrating how music can impact rehabilitation. 
  5. Transplant management: The ‘Nurse Management of a Patient with a Transplant’ session outlined specific patient needs in the rehabilitation setting for those who’ve received heart, lung and liver transplants. Rehabilitation nurses can help reduce the risk of transplant rejection by monitoring medication administration and identifying educational needs. The speaker also touched on the importance of a patient’s support system during rehabilitation and post-discharge, both of which nurses can assist. 
  6. Annual Member’s Meeting: Lastly, I recommend our nurses attend the annual member’s meeting each year, as it’s a great way to get an insider’s look into the many aspects where ARN is involved. The association impacts rehab nursing care in a variety of ways, including politics, research and the standards of care for inpatient and outpatient settings. Attending the meeting reinforces our commitment as nurses to be involved in promoting the practice of rehabilitation nursing. 

ARN REACH always energizes me with fresh ideas to benefit our nurses, as well as our patients. It’s an exciting time to be in rehabilitation nursing, and I look forward to the next ARN REACH Conference in San Antonio in October 2020.