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What is a Rehabilitation Support Worker (RSW)?

In the community, there are a number of titles our role has been given depending on how individual firms refer to the discipline. These include Rehabilitation Therapists, Rehabilitation Assistants and Rehabilitation Support Workers. Regardless of title, the responsibilities are all the same. At Stride Rehab we identify as Rehabilitation Support Workers. Please note this is a different discipline from a Personal Support Worker (PSW). 

How do RSW’s find themselves on a rehabilitation treatment team?

When a rehabilitation treatment team is put together to support a client’s needs, an RSW is often considered due to the high quality of service delivery combined with the cost-effective nature of the discipline. RSW’s implement treatment goals recommended by regulated health professionals, stretching rehab dollars available for support.  


Stride Rehab has built a reputation of consistent quality, working with law firms, insurance companies, WSIB claimants, hospitals and other rehabilitation firms to provide service to their injured clients. 


What experience do RSW’s have?


At Stride Rehab, our RSW's experience comes from a focus on providing rehabilitation support to individuals with an acquired brain injury and/or spinal cord injury. 


Our training and background allow us to support individuals who have also been diagnosed with mental health disorders, developmental disabilities, dual diagnosis, orthopaedic injuries, stroke, addiction and pain related to soft tissue injuries. Managing extremes in behaviour is one of our specialties. 


Where does rehabilitation support take place?


Our RSW’s provide the support where it is needed and in the environment which is necessary for a goal to be achieved. This includes home, school, work or in a hospital setting. Traditional support occurs hands-on with a client, face-to-face working collaboratively. 


We also have a number of clients both past and present where support has been delivered virtually, for cues and reminders that are goal specific. Some clients cannot schedule their own appointments and do not have daily support to facilitate doing so. We are able to assist by inputting appointment dates into a client or caregiver’s online calendar without having to be physically present. This supports a client’s needs in real time while eliminating frustration and travel costs.

What does an RSW specifically work on with clients?

Our flexible approach is contingent on where an individual is in the process of their personal recovery. Someone who has just been involved in an accident/motor vehicle collision and suffered an ABI or spinal cord injury will be in a different state of recovery when compared to someone who is 2 years post-accident. We adapt our approach to the ideal program based on an individual’s needs.

Some examples of support RSW’s provide:

  • Academic support: Many of our clients are involved in school or other educational programs. Our RSW’s consider many factors before sitting down and opening up a book with a client. We evaluate such things as lighting, background noise, tolerance to seated activity and time of day the client is best suited to engage in the work. To promote a successful outcome, we build a plan based on: environment, approach, schedule and appropriate frequency and duration of breaks. We ensure all areas of the experience are desirable for the client so that the experience fosters growth in personal recovery.

  • Activities of daily living: This denotes a broad range of support. We identify the areas that a client requires assistance in order to become more self-sufficient. Our purpose is to enable a client to independently engage in and complete tasks such as: hygiene; dressing; meal preparation; daily/weekly schedule planning and more. Success in this area results in continued functionality, even in the absence of support from an RSW. Each client’s needs are assessed individually and a customized plan is put into place. For the task of dressing, that might constitute breaking the task down into several, small manageable steps, or creating a schedule of visual cues to assist the client with recall.

  •  Assistive technology support: We specialize in merging computers, smartphones and/or tablets into functional daily use. Effective use of these sophisticated tools can augment existing support structures to increase independence. We will configure the existing software on these devices to accomplish goals such as: establishing routines; keeping track of appointments; and providing reminders for daily activities. In addition to configuring the devices, we can provide training to increase comfort and drive usage. We understand that some clients may not be comfortable with technology. For these clients, there are a range of assistive devices we can employ that are simple and not technology-based which we can employ.

  • Cognitive rehabilitation: This area is often the most challenging for clients we support. Tasks that a client may have been able to easily engage in and complete before an injury, may now present clients with difficulty. Cognitive rehabilitation refers to the ability for the RSW to identify these areas of difficulty and provide solutions to the client. Tasks related to memory such as remembering an appointment, taking medication, paying bills, or watering plants can all be addressed. Based on the individual client, we can employ technology-based solutions and non-technology-based solutions to facilitate memory. 

  • Community integration: This is a key part of recovery post-accident. Paying bills and even grocery shopping can now be done from your smartphone, in the comfort of your own home. While convenient, depending on electronic access to the outside world can be isolating and is no replacement for human interaction. While presenting with accident related symptoms on any given day during your recovery, it may be a good idea to exercise the option of getting things done from home. But on a day where you may be presenting fewer accident related symptoms, and can tolerate the difficulties associated with going out, it is recommended to go into the community for something simple. This assists with building tolerance while growth occurs in recovery. Many individuals present with light and noise sensitivity which have to be considered before going into public spaces. Our RSW’s assist client’s with recreational and vocational interests that make going into the community more desirable and provide strategies to make integration successful. 

  • Physio/exercise program:  Our RSW’s assist clients with exercises that may take place at home or a local gym. Many of our clients are recommended to engage in pool therapy programs designed by a Physiotherapist. Physical recovery, in conjunction with other modalities of rehabilitation support, is integral to overall recovery. 

  • Return to work or volunteer: An RSW assists a client’s return to work or volunteer opportunities. This area of support requires significant preparation. Completing a task that once may have been second nature will likely present with challenges post-accident. This makes returning to work more complex than simply finding a job or volunteer role. While in a vocational setting, RSW’s observe tolerance and abilities. Having an RSW in the early stage of the return to work process is essential, allowing for the RSW to assist in implementing physical and cognitive strategies necessary to ease the transition back to a vocational setting. 

How is the decision made on what goal(s) to work on with a client?


Program goals are recommended and overseen by regulated health professionals on a treatment team. Most of our clients have a full rehabilitation team including but not limited to: Psychologists; Occupational Therapists; Speech-Language Pathologists, Social Workers and Physiotherapists. Each discipline makes recommendations within their scope of practice. 


How is the support delivered?


Given that an RSW is the discipline on the rehabilitation treatment team who typically meets with the client the most, an RSW takes all of the recommended goals from the regulated health professionals on the team and implements them during RSW sessions. 


The RSW must identify and prioritize goals based on the client’s emotional state and functional ability on any given day. Each session begins by performing this assessment. During the recovery process, an RSW analyzes assessment data to identify patterns in behaviour. This analysis provides important feedback to the clinical team and client, providing an appropriate platform to build future treatment goals.


On what standards do RSW’s operate?


RSW’s function and operate under the supervision and guidance of the regulated health professional(s) on the team. Each regulated health professional on a clinical team belongs to a college specific to their discipline, which has guidelines governing performance standards. At Stride Rehab, our high internal standard of professional practice includes regular communication and feedback with the team, as well as detailed records that are maintained and shared with the clinical team, enabling goals to be adjusted as needed.


  • All information provided on our website is for information purposes only. Individual client needs vary. Please consult your rehabilitation team‪.

  • ‪The breakdown provided above is based on funding through insurance benefits. At Stride Rehab we have many clients who pay privately to fund their own rehabilitation.


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