Career advice

Neuro-rehabilitation: supporting younger adults after stroke and acquired brain injury

Free one-year course for nurses targets care for this ‘overlooked’ patient group

Fully funded one-year course for nurses aims to improve care for this overlooked patient group

Applications are now open for an innovative new course designed to help nurses who work in neurological rehabilitation provide a better service, especially for adults who are aged up to 40.

Those in the younger age bracket are an overlooked group, says Aisha Holloway, head of nursing studies at the University of Edinburgh, which will deliver the course.

A focus on acquired brain injuries in younger people

While the numbers might be smaller, they have quite specific unmet needs. Many have children and jobs, while those who have

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Fully funded one-year course for nurses aims to improve care for this ‘overlooked’ patient group

Younger adults who have a stroke or acquired brain injury often have specific unmet care needs Picture: SPL

Applications are now open for an innovative new course designed to help nurses who work in neurological rehabilitation provide a better service, especially for adults who are aged up to 40.

‘Those in the younger age bracket are an overlooked group,’ says Aisha Holloway, head of nursing studies at the University of Edinburgh, which will deliver the course.

A focus on acquired brain injuries in younger people

‘While the numbers might be smaller, they have quite specific unmet needs. Many have children and jobs, while those who have had a stroke at an older age are at a different stage of their life.’

The free, year-long programme in neurological rehabilitation and care – the first of its kind to be targeted at nurses – is funded by the RCN Foundation. It follows a research project looking at the experiences of people with an acquired brain injury (ABI) or stroke, particularly at a younger age.

Aisha Holloway: ‘Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone for your own development’

‘We’ll be using the evidence we’ve gathered to inform some of the programme’s teaching and learning,’ explains Professor Holloway. ‘The data will also be there for students to engage with, so they will hear from service users, giving them real expert insight.’

According to the Stroke Association, every year 100,000 people in the UK have strokes, and there are 1.2 million stroke survivors. Data on all ABI-related hospital admissions in the UK, compiled by brain injury charity Headway, shows there were an average of 954 admissions a day to UK hospitals for ABI in 2016-17 – one every 90 seconds – and that ABI admissions have increased by 10% since 2005-2006.

While nurses are part of a team providing specialist care for this group of patients, their role is often the linchpin, says Professor Holloway. ‘Our research shows that people are clear about how important the nurse is during their rehabilitation journey,’ she says. ‘They are highly valued and have a unique contribution to make. They are seen as someone people can trust.’

SameYou charity has helped to develop the course

The course, which begins in May 2021 and has 30 places, has been developed in partnership with the charity SameYou, set up by Game of Thrones actor and RCN ambassador Emilia Clarke after she survived two life-threatening brain haemorrhages.

RCN ambassador Emilia Clarke

Although the incidence of stroke increases with age, one in four people who have a stroke are aged under 65.

‘Much of the programme is based on the knowledge that nurses are bringing from the clinical area to the classroom, so course members learn from each other,’ says Professor Holloway. ‘They can challenge current practice and thinking, linking to an evidence base, and perhaps lead to service change.’

The part-time programme is open to registered nurses from around the world, who will receive a postgraduate certificate on completion. Applicants should be working in neurological rehabilitation or have access to this clinical practice environment during the course.

‘It’s already getting a lot of attention,’ says Professor Holloway. ‘We’re getting queries every day.’

The neurological rehabilitation and care programme: what’s involved

Postgraduate certificates are shorter taught programmes that provide Master’s-level training, but take less time for someone to complete and don’t involve a dissertation, says the University of Edinburgh website.

They can also count towards a diploma and eventually an MSc in advanced nursing.

The neurological rehabilitation and care postgraduate certificate aims to:

  • Promote a person-centred approach to neuro-rehabilitation practice, with a particular focus on the expressed needs of adults aged 18-40 who have an acquired brain injury (ABI) or stroke, and that of their family and carers
  • Boost knowledge and skills in supporting the physical, cognitive and mental health needs of individuals who have experienced ABI or stroke
  • Enhance research enquiry skills and their application to evidence-based clinical practice of neurological rehabilitation

Online learning on a fully-funded postgraduate course

The university plans to host a webinar in the new year for potential applicants, covering details of how to apply.

‘It can be quite daunting for nurses to come back into education,’ says Professor Holloway. ‘They are working and have other commitments. But as a university, we are expert at working with those who are studying at the same time as clinically practising.

‘We can help them return to study, with lots of resources available. This is a great opportunity and sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone for your own development.’

Although it will be delivered online, the aim is to build a community of learning. ‘We already have a well-established online presence,’ says Professor Holloway. ‘We have lots of technology and can bring people together.’

A year-long evaluation will run alongside the course. ‘We want to understand people’s experiences of it and follow up afterwards, seeing how it affects their career,’ says Professor Holloway.

‘The ambition is to continue the programme in the long term. We hope people will grab this offer as there aren’t many opportunities for nurses to have a fully funded programme of study. Take a leap of faith – you won’t regret it.’



Find out more

University of Edinburg Neurological Rehabilitation and Care (Online Learning)

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