Inpatient rehab services help patients regain sense of well-being, independence

HARLINGEN – An Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen is benefitting patients who are recovering after a stroke, joint replacement surgery, hip fracture, heart surgery, brain injury, or amputation; as well as those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s Disease, and other conditions.

The Rehabilitation Unit focuses on intensive therapy and restorative care, with the goal being to increase patients’ level of functioning before they return home, said Rosie Aguilar, RN, BSN, Program Director for the rehab unit.

On the 18-bed unit — which features all-private rooms and a therapy gym – patients are assisted by an inter-disciplinary team which includes physicians, physical and occupational therapists, speech\language pathologists, specially-trained nurses, social workers, and other specialists as needed.

“This unit is designed for patients who need intensive rehabilitation therapy – at least three hours a day of physical, occupational and/or speech therapy,” Aguilar said. “We are committed to helping our patients regain their sense of well-being and independence and to reach their highest level of functioning. Our patients are treated by a group of highly-trained professionals who work as a team to assist them in preparing to return to a normal life.”

A renovation project is currently underway to expand and revamp the Rehabilitation Unit. The project, which is slated for completion in August, will increase the total number of beds to 22 and upgrade other aspects of the unit, including the purchase of new rehabilitation equipment, as well as renovating and nearly doubling the size of the existing therapy gym.

“We are very excited about this project, because it will allow us to care for more patients than ever before,” Aguilar said.

Care of patients in the Valley Baptist Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit is coordinated by a physiatrist, a physician who specializes in rehabilitation and physical medicine, with the physiatrist coordinating care with the patient’s personal physician, who may continue to follow the patient’s progress.Dr. Rachel Martin, DO, Physiatrist, serves as Medical Director of the Valley Baptist Inpatient Rehab Unit.

Physicians are assisted by specially-trained rehabilitation nurses who provide patients with around-the-clock care and support. Patients undergoing rehabilitation participate in three hours of treatment specific to their healthcare needs daily, five days a week.

“Our nurses help explain what is happening to the patients, so they know what to expect when it comes to their treatments, progress, and potential challenges,” Aguilar said. “The nurses are available to the patient 24 hours a day – and of course we have the on-site back-up of the largest hospital in Cameron County, for patients with emergency needs.”

Other key members of the rehab team include physical therapists, who evaluate and educate patients on improving their mobility through the use of assistive devices such as a walker, cane, or wheelchair. Physical therapists also work with the patient on improving their overall strength, balance, and endurance through therapeutic exercises.

In addition, occupational therapists are available to evaluate and assist patients with maximizing their independence with self-care skills such as eating, dressing, and bathing, as well as basic home management skills so patients are prepared to return home safely. Occupational therapists also address limitations patients may have with overall arm and hand strength, coordination, and endurance.

For patients needing evaluation and treatment for their ability to communicate, problem solve, and reason, speech therapists are available at the Valley Baptist Rehab Unit. Speech therapists also help address problems patients may have with swallowing.

Aguilar said that helping patients regain their independence and transition from the hospital setting back into their normal lives is a process that is incredibly rewarding for her staff.

“Our patients want to get back to their daily routine, and helping them do that is a gift,” she said. “We really get to know our patients and bond with them. When a patient leaves, we give them a certificate and it’s almost like graduation. We’re all clapping and hugging and crying because it is so emotional for us.”

Valley Baptist also offers outpatient rehabilitation in a separate building, the Round Outpatient Rehabilitation Pavilion, across the street from the Emergency Room.

For more information on rehabilitation services, please consult your physician; call (956) 389-1550 and visit