Who will help after spinal cord injury?

Members of the health care team will work together with you, your family, and friends during the hospital stay. Care will be centered on your specific needs. Family and friends are important members of the team.


The most important member of the team. Care will be planned based on how you and your body respond to treatment.

Family and friends

Family and friends offer emotional support. They may also give the health care team important facts about your history and can help watch for changes.


Neurosurgery and orthopedic doctors are specialists that help decide the type of SCI, as well as the medical and surgical treatment. They may do surgery on the spine. They will work with other doctors in intensive care or to treat injuries to other parts of the body if needed. A rehabilitation doctor (physiatrist) may also talk about what to expect during the hospital stay and go over any questions you may have about what happens if you are transferred to a rehabilitation unit.


Nurses will check vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, heart and breathing rate) and watch for changes in movement and sensation. They will help with daily care, such as eating and bathing. Nurses also coordinate care among the members of the health care team.

Social workers

Social workers provide emotional support and help patients and families adjust to being in the hospital. They coordinate discharge planning, referral to community resources, and questions related to insurance or disability.

Physical therapist (PT)

Physical therapists evaluate and treat weaknesses in strength, balance, rolling, sitting, standing, and if possible, walking. Treatment may be exercises and teaching people how to use equipment, such as braces or wheelchairs.

Occupational therapist (OT)

Occupational therapists evaluate the ability to dress, bathe, and do home-making activities. They provide treatment and/or equipment needed for care after leaving the hospital. They also help with work and leisure activities.

Speech therapist

Speech therapists test and treat speech, language, and swallowing problems.


Dietitians assess nutrition needs. They work with the patient and other team members to help meet nutrition goals.

Other staff that may work with patients and families are:

  • Psychiatric nurses
  • Clergy
  • Patient representatives
  • Music therapists
  • Activity therapists
  • Child life therapists
  • Vocational rehabilitation specialists
Last reviewed: 
March 2018

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