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The Simple Guide to Becoming a Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist

by Nikolaus Prescott, DPT

According to the CDC, more than 795,000 people suffer from a stroke every year in the US. The CDC also reports that strokes are a leading cause of serious long-term disability.

The need for rehabilitation services for people who have survived a stroke is evident. Stroke rehabilitation is a complex process, but thankfully a group of rehab specialists are determined to find solutions: certified stroke rehabilitation specialists.

What is a Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist (CSRS)?

For those of us working as either physical or occupational therapists in a neurological setting, you already know that your job feels more art than science at times. One near certainty in a neurological setting is that you will encounter patients who have recently survived a stroke, and major differences in the unpredictable nature of the symptoms and a wide range in patients’ courses of recovery is as common (and varied) as the patients themselves.

As such, stroke rehabilitation is and has been an area of special interest for rehabilitation professionals. The field attempts to find the best possible methods of treatment and care for stroke survivors. If you’re like me, working in a neurological setting while still pretty fresh out of school, wondering whether you truly have a grasp on your understanding of this diagnosis, then you might consider becoming a CSRS as the next step in your career.

Benefits of completing the CSRS course

This should not be considered an exhaustive list of possible benefits from attending and completing the course to become a CSRS. I simply consider these to be the primary upsides to the experience.

Professional development

Obtaining a CSRS is not just about the credential (which alone can boost your marketability—learn about occupational therapy credentials here) but also about the many avenues toward your professional development that can come out of the course.

You’ll get to meet other ambitious therapists like yourself AND network with some of the most progressive stroke recovery thinkers in the country. If that’s not your bag, you can look forward to all of the evidence-based resources made available to you as part of your attendance, keeping you at the height of your practice.


Let’s not pretend—there are many of us who like to wait until the last minute to complete our CEU requirements. Trying to scrape together the required hours can be a bit hectic. One of the perks of this course is that it provides 6.5 hours per seminar day of continuing education hours toward your license renewal. Over four seminars, that is 26 hours of live instruction. In other words, that should pretty much cover the bulk of your CEUs for your current renewal period.

Better patient outcomes

It should go without saying that improved patient outcomes is by far the most popular reason for obtaining a CSRS. Most therapy professionals I have met entered the field to make a difference in the lives of those dealing with pain, loss of function, or decreased independence. Especially for all the new grads out there who feel utterly lost in the puzzle of neuro rehab, having some specialized guidance to give you ideas can make all the difference for your patients in need (especially for those contraversive pushers, am I right?).

I decided I want to get my CSRS! How do I start?

The CSRS course is provided to physical therapists and occupational therapists and consists of four eight-hour seminars filled with content ranging from reviewing the foundational sciences of stroke recovery and the newest evidence-based literature, to exploring progressive treatment methods, to hands-on sessions to get familiar with some of the concepts delivered.

Information for signing up can be found on the National Stroke Association website. The National Stroke Association sponsors the CSRS course and credential. There, you will find information on the certification and links to upcoming seminars. The course locations travel throughout the country and are nearly always sold out, so I suggest signing up for the email list.

Once you find an open spot, get signed up. The course takes place over two weekends about a month apart, so you’ll have to plan accordingly if you are traveling to the course. I think you’ll find that it was worth the work in the long run, including the test. Yes, there is an exam, but hey—you already passed the hard one, right?

I hope you consider the CSRS program as a step towards your professional development and a way to step up your game in the clinic. After all, what are you doing if you’re not doing your utmost to improve the lives of those in need?

Are any of you new grads out there thinking about becoming a CSRS? Any current ones have similar experiences? Please, share in the comments below!

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