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The time is edging toward 12:45 p.m. After a hectic morning at the acute rehabilitation hospital, the pace has temporarily slowed. Some patients are eating lunch. A few have returned to their rooms for a nap. Others sit in their wheelchairs in the lobby-watching TV, playing the piano or conversing with staff and fellow patients. The daily therapy schedule includes at least three hours of physical work, so patients look forward to the break.

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Acute rehabilitation provides short-term care in a setting where patients focus on quick recovery-physical, emotional, and often spiritual. They realize, as do we, that this brief stay is a bridge for re-entry into their home and community lives. Patients usually sense that they must optimize this opportunity for physical recovery, while maintaining their emotional and spiritual health.


It's almost 12:45 p.m. The sense of anticipation increases. Jeffrey, a man with bilateral above-the-knee amputations, has pulled up beside me at the nurse's station in his wheelchair. "Don't forget me," he whispers.


I won't forget him. Our destination is on the first floor-the same as the gym. We'll keep our date, and then I'll drop him off at his 1:00 p.m. therapy session.


Our gym is an amazing place, equipped with state-of-the-art devices to help patients regain optimal physical function. I have seen wonderful things happen in the gym. Patients previously unable to sit alone have been retrained to get up and walk. Amputees are strengthened to enable them to function well with a prosthesis.


Acute rehabilitation nursing, in many cases, is the last stop for a patient before returning to normal life. When you care for patients with fractured hips, spinal cord injuries, strokes, amputations and brain injuries on a daily basis, you learn to appreciate life, with all its complexities and surprises. You learn to accept challenges and to count your blessings. Working on what we call the Complex Unit has allowed me to work with patients with a wide range of physical challenges. They have multiple physical diagnoses and often present with depression. In many cases it is difficult to tell where acute care ends and rehabilitation begins. We mesh the two aspects of nursing and provide a smooth transition for the patient through well-planned care and teamwork.


The 12:45 p.m. announcement grabs the attention of patients and staff. Why do I schedule my patient care so I can be available? Why do therapists, case managers, secretaries and rehab techs cut their lunch time in half? What makes a wheelchair-bound man watch the clock and seek me out?


Our daily fifteen-minute prayer meeting is about to start.


What began as a prayer-and-praise service with two or three staff members has grown in strength and appeal. The few minutes together in the chapel each day are cherished by staff, patients and visitors. At times, our well-placed chapel-first floor at the entrance of the lobby-has nearly been filled. This little room is one place where we gather for spiritual encouragement, reassurance and, sometimes, recommitment. We are reminded that through all things, both good and bad, our lives are in God's hands. At the chapel we can let go of life's problems and connect with God.


Prayer, a testimony and sharing are sometimes what it takes to turn a patient from despair to hope and progress. Many patients need this spiritual connection to facilitate the healing process. Family members and caregivers find renewed strength and reassurance in handling the tasks and responsibilities before them. They find comfort and joy. Comfort comes from knowing that they are not alone. Joy comes from realizing that through all things-no matter what-God is there. Staff members come to get an extra boost to handle the daily demands of rehabilitation nursing.


Emerging from the elevator, I notice a small, figure in the lobby. A former stroke patient, she regularly returns for outpatient rehabilitation. She heard the chapel announcement too. Sitting in her wheelchair waiting for a session with her therapist, her unaffected hand waves to get my attention. "Are you still having meetings?" she asks.

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"We certainly are!!" I reply.


"Can I come?" she inquires.


"Of course," I reply, as I wheel her toward the chapel.


Nursing addresses the total needs of the patient-maintaining homeostasis. We seek to maintain balance between body, mind and spirit. Our nursing care should address the physical, the emotional and the spiritual components of each person as equally important. Rehab nurses seldom have time to sit with a patient to talk or just hold a hand. However, our prayer service provides opportunities to hold a hand, cry with each other, encourage one another or sometimes just touch a patient's shoulder.


The prayer time serves multiple roles. For patients, it provides emotional comfort when uncertainty and fear run rampant. It reminds us that no one is ever alone. It provides a time and a place where staff members can connect with our spiritual side, and that helps us maintain our desire for and commitment to the professions we have chosen. It is a time when we can be grateful for blessings and the miracles witnessed daily.


Patient Lives Touched

Bill was one of our quiet miracles. After an automobile accident, this athletic seventeen-year-old was admitted with a spinal cord injury. The resulting paraplegia left him enough mobility to push the switch on his power wheelchair. Bill came to the prayer service often during his stay. At first he was depressed and withdrawn. After a few prayer meetings, we began to see a light in his eyes; a little hope had sparked. Bill realized that he could try to make the best of this tragic situation.


Bill was discharged but later readmitted to acute care, critically ill with pneumonia. He remembered the prayer meeting and asked his prayer partners if we would pray for him. We met in his room, and his family met with us. We held hands, prayed, cried and held each other, knowing that Bill was in God's hands. As I reached down to kiss Bill, I noticed tears streaming down his face. We'll never know what was in his mind at that time. He soon passed on to a new life. However, in this difficult time, the prayer group brought spiritual comfort to Bill and his family.


It is nearing 12:45 p.m., and here comes Jeffrey in his wheelchair. This man once felt depressed, alone and inadequate, with a great sense of loss. Now he is self-assured, happy and looking forward to life. He wears bilateral prostheses and walks well with crutches. He has not forgotten the prayer meetings and attends when he comes for therapy.


So much has changed for Jeffrey. And it all started with a prayer meeting at 12:45 p.m.