Nursing Care of TBIs: Beyond Visible Injuries

Chelsea Kwong, senior

For the past year, I have had the unique opportunity of working as a patient care technician on a brain injury rehabilitation unit. Throughout my time there, I have witnessed the devastating effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which include emotional and/or physical disturbances. However, I have also been a witness to the amazing results of intensive therapy. It is a delight to see a patient walk that was unable to do so three weeks ago. Traumatic brain injuries are among the most complex injuries that the human body can experience, and it take special nursing skills to effectively care for these patients (at every step of the way!).

brainThe most common ways that one acquires a TBI are through falls, motor vehicle crashes, sudden blows to the head, and assaults.1 TBI’s are classified as either mild or severe. Mild TBI’s are classified as such “if confusion and/or disorientation is shorter than 30 minutes”2. These individuals can experience several cognitive effects, such as “headache, difficulty thinking, memory problems, attention deficits, mood swings, and frustrations”. Severe TBI’s are associated with “loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes and memory loss after the injury…longer than 24 hours”. brain2They can have a very significant on the individual’s ability to function socially.

Nurses will most often encounter these patients in intensive care, emergency, and rehabilitation settings. Much of nursing care goes beyond such measures as maintaining intracranial pressure at a safe level, tending to visible structural injuries, etc. Nurse often find themselves providing education to the patient in families in regards to potential life changes. Particularly, the nurse may be charged with finding support groups and counseling for those affected by the injury. Traumatic brain injuries can be very stressful for spouses of injured individuals, as they now find themselves suddenly becoming a caregiver, and losing their equal partner both physically and cognitively. Patients with TBI’s may find that they cannot work, or aid in taking care of their children. All outcomes can be extremely strenuous for patients and their families, and it is important for the nurse to educate and support at this time.

Traumatic brain injuries can be extremely traumatic and life changing. However, with proper nursing care, the journey from hospitalization to discharge can be much less stressful on those who matter most: the patient and their loved ones.


1n.a. (2015). Facts about traumatic brain injury. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

2 n.a. (2013). What is TBI? Head Injury Association. Retrieved from

3 Zimlich, Rachael. (2014). Nursing interventions in traumatic brain injury go beyond the patient. Modern Medicine Network. Retrieved from

Photo from and pintrest



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