Intended for healthcare professionals


A career in rehabilitation medicine

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 11 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6394
  1. Morag Sime, ST6 registrar in rehabilitation medicine
  1. University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust-Rehabilitation Medicine, London Road Community Hospital, Derby, UK
  1. moragsime{at}

Have you ever wondered what happens after the initial “life saving” aspect of medicine? What happens to those who lose limbs from sepsis, have a spinal cord injury from trauma, or have a neurodegenerative condition? How do those people get out of hospital and back to living a good life? That’s where the specialty of rehabilitation medicine comes in.

What is rehabilitation medicine?

Rehabilitation medicine does not focus on one organ or body systembut involves individuals with cognitive or physical impairments, or both. Those impairments may be secondary to a variety of congenital or acquired conditions, including spinal cord injury, limb loss, brain injury, neurological and musculoskeletal conditions. Health professionals working in rehabilitation medicine deal with a patient’s physical, psychological, and social needs to ensure the best recovery and improvement in quality of life. They support patients and their families through life changing, and sometimes life limiting times. Rehabilitation medicine offers care in outpatient clinics, inpatient neurorehabilitation wards, intensive care, and the community. Doctors who work in rehabilitation medicine coordinate care, work with therapy teams, use technologies, and perform procedures such as botulinum toxin injections for spasticity.

The miracle recovery story everyone likes to hear about is not always the case. Rehabilitation medicine can be challenging emotionally and ethically—for example, caring for people with prolonged disorders of consciousness, such as vegetative and minimally conscious states.

Where did it come from?

Ludwig Guttman, a doctor who worked …

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