The Rehabilitation Team

The treatment of a patient after a stroke is multidisciplinary, requiring the support of several members of a team of medical professionals. These include rehabilitation specialists; rehabilitation nurses; physical, occupational, recreation, speech and language therapists and mental health professionals.

Primary Care Physicians, Neurologists and Physiatrists

Primary care physicians are responsible for managing and coordinating the long-term care of patients, including the incorporation of rehabilitation programs according to the needs of each patient. Primary care physicians are also responsible for general health care and for advising the patient how to prevent a future stroke; for example, controlling blood pressure or diabetes and eliminating risk factors.

Neurologists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of stroke and other diseases of the brain. They direct teams for stroke-intensive care and patient care while in the hospital.

Physiatrists assume responsibility after the acute stage has passed, and specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation Nurses

Rehabilitation nurses specialize in helping stroke survivors with their disabilities and adjusting to life after stroke. They also help survivors manage health problems that affect stroke, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and provide training for families and caregivers.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists are trained in all aspects of anatomy and physiology and can evaluate the patient to design individualized rehabilitation programs to support successful recovery of functions. Physical therapists help survivors regain use of their legs and arms and help with problems related to moving and balance. Therapists teach how to use assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, and establish exercise programs to help people retain the skills they have just recovered.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help survivors relearn the motor skills needed to perform occupational activities, such as house cleaning or gardening, and basic activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing, writing or cooking. They also teach people how to develop strategies and adapt their environment to support their daily activities. For example, people who have limited use with one hand may replace the buttons on their clothes with Velcro.

Many occupational therapists can also teach people how to make changes in their homes to increase safety, remove barriers and facilitate physical functioning. For example, installing grab bars in bathrooms is a common recommendation made by occupational therapists. Recreational therapists help people with disabilities develop and use their free time to improve their health, independence and quality of life.

Speech Therapist

Speech therapists assist survivors with problems related to speech, writing, reading or understanding words (aphasia). They help with relearning how to use language, and they develop alternative means of communication. Speech therapists also help with swallowing issues.


Dietitians teach survivors about healthy eating and special diets, such as low in sodium, low fat and low calories.

Social Worker

Social workers help survivors make decisions about rehabilitation programs, living arrangements, insurance and home support services.


Neuropsychologists diagnose and treat survivors who may be facing changes in thinking, memory and behavior after their stroke.

Case Manager

Case managers help survivors facilitate follow-up to acute care, coordinate care from multiple health care professionals and link to local services.

Recreation Therapist

Recreation therapists help with strategies to improve the thinking and movement skills needed to join in recreational activities.