A Typical Day at MedStar NRH Spinal Cord Injury Program

A typical day at Spinal Cord Injury Program at MedStar NRH

Medstar NRH’s team of SCI specialists – physicians, psychologist, nurses and therapists- treat the multiple physical, cognitive and behavioral effects of injury and illness. It’s an integrated approach to care that promotes recovery and a return to independence. Your team will work together with you and your family to meet your rehabilitation goals on your path to recovery.  

During the first three days, your treatment team will complete an extensive evaluation and will collaborate with you on designing your treatment plan and goals. Family is an important part of your recovery and may be invited to participate in training and Family Conferences to facilitate a successful return home.

While every person’s treatment is individualized, a typical program may look like this:

  • You will receive a schedule each day with your scheduled therapy appointments including therapist name and location of therapy. Therapy can happen in many places in our atrium, in the garden and in the community! (See more comprehensive list below!)*
  • You will receive at least three hours of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy (if indicated) every day for a minimum of five days a week.
  • Your therapy may include individual and group sessions focused on teaching you the skills needed to return safely to home and the community. We have specific SCI therapy groups designed to meet your needs.
  • Attending physician and nursing staff
    • Your attending physician and nursing staff will assist with managing your medical needs, meeting daily with you to discuss physical status and answer any questions.  
  • Rehabilitation engineer
    • Our rehabilitation engineer will determine any needs you have for specialized environment controls. Being able to use the call bell, telephone and the TV is an important first step.
  • Occupational Therapy
    • Occupational Therapy will assist you in learning the skills and adaptations needed for you to be independent and productive at home, in the workplace and in the community. This will include bathing, dressing, toileting and functional mobility.
  • Physical therapist
    • Your Physical therapist will work with you on your mobility needs and will provide training both at the hospital and in the community. They will work with you to determine your equipment needs and will design a treatment program to maximize your movement and functional abilities.
  • Clinical dieticians
    • For lunch, there is the option of going independently to the dining room, and eating with others in our open atrium space. Our clinical dieticians help you meet all of your nutritional needs by formulating an individualized diet bases upon your food preferences, your physical abilities and any dietetic restrictions ordered by your doctor.
  • 8 session SCI education series
    • Our 8 session SCI education series will answer your questions about SCI and many of the common issues (SCI Anatomy/Function levels, Skin, Bowel and Bladder, Sexuality, Community Resources, Vocational, Health & Wellness). Family is welcome to attend these educational sessions.
  • Case manager and social worker
    • Your case manager and social worker will assist you and your family throughout your stay so that a safe discharge plan can occur. They will coordinate with insurers and external case managers thereby enhancing the outcomes of your rehabilitation. They will also work closely with you and your family to plan for your care and to explore resources available to you after discharge.
  • Psychologist
    • Your psychologist will likely meet with you for individual, family and/or group pyschotherapy to help you understand and adjust to your disability and work with you to promote healthy behavior. Support groups are available for inpatients and outpatients.
  • Recreation Therapist
    • To assist with your return to the community, your Recreation Therapist will assist you with adapting your leisure interests and increasing your awareness of special programs in the community that will help with your transition home. Our Adapted Sports & Fitness Program will provide an opportunity for you to continue to participate in sports and recreation after discharge. We are recognized as Paralympic Sport Club Washington DC, frequently hosting visits by Paralympians.
  • You may participate in a community outing with our SCI therapists to prepare you for a return to the community. Using our wheelchair accessible van, we visit museums, shopping centers and other places of interest. If you are interested, an evening outing could be planned to one of our adapted sports clinics.
  • SCI Peer Wellness Specialist
    • Our SCI Peer Wellness Specialist will meet with you and share information about our SCI Peer Mentor program and our “No Limits” Adapted Fitness You will have the option to be assigned a SCI Peer Mentor to provide support both while at the hospital and after discharge. Our Adapted Fitness program, held after therapy hours, is open to you while at the hospital and after discharge at no charge.
  • Speech-Language pathologist
    • If needed, your Speech-Language pathologist will work to enhance your communication skills, address swallowing needs and help you to be as independent and effective as you possibly can in getting your message across or listening to others.
  • Assistive Technology Professionals and Seating and Mobility Specialists
    • You will meet with our Assistive Technology Professionals and Seating and Mobility Specialists and have access to pressure mapping and equipment vendors to ensure you receive the best equipment for you.
  • We host the United Spinal Chapter of DC, with a monthly Peer Support group available after discharge.
  • There are also special events and opportunities on the weekends and in the evening including weekly Bingo, Saturday Game day, Sunday Movies and Pet Visits by P.A.L. A yearly SCI Holiday Community Fair is hosted to provide our past and current patients access to the latest information from disability focused organizations and equipment vendors.
  • Research
    • Opportunities are available to participate in ongoing research projects with our highly respected Research Studies conducted have provided valuable information for individuals with Spinal Cord Injury.


*Therapy can happen in lots of places, including:

  • The light-filled atriums filled with state-of-the-art therapeutic equipment.
  • Independence Square, the hospital’s unique therapy space set up to mirror a home, with a kitchen to practice cooking, ramps and stairs to practice wheelchair skills with barriers you will encounter when you leave the hospital.
  • The Victory Garden, the beautiful and peaceful space for rest and relaxation, is open during the day and evening.
  • The Patient Education Library filled with community resources and computers with internet access is also open during the day and evening.
  • The accessible gym and therapeutic indoor pool on the first floor.
  • The local community, through supervised outings in the local community including trips to participate in our Adapted Sports program

Make an Appointment

For more information about the Spinal Cord Program at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, please call