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Helping Brain Injury Survivors Live Better Lives

By Lee Anne Mincolelli, Senior Nursing Assistant, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, West Orange

Headshot of Lee Anne MincolelliMy journey as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) began in 2012 on the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Unit at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR). After managing a catering company for 20 years, I felt a calling to do something that would make a real difference in people's lives. Upon completion of my certification, my CNA instructor, who happened to be a registered nurse at KIR, recommended that I apply for a position on the TBI Unit.

To be honest, I was nervous. I had studied brain injuries, but to physically care for these patients was a whole different story. But I was an open book, ready to write a new chapter in my career and fully engaged in learning all I could about my patients and their needs.The more insight I gained about brain injury and patient care, the more empowered I became. Slowly, the empty pages began to fill!

Now, I begin each day with a clear head and a focus on my patients' needs and goals. Some people may believe my job is just toileting, dressing, grooming, and feeding patients, or taking them to therapy sessions. But it goes far beyond that. I am their advocate, cheerleader, confidante, and companion. I listen to the concerns, their fears, and their hopes for the future. I may be their eyes, ears, or voice, and I also strive to be their trusted caregiver.


The complexity of how the human brain functions and the impact of a TBI challenges me every day to learn more. How the combination of care and treatment, therapies and medications, and a patient's personal drive can produce a positive outcome never ceases to amaze me. The success stories I witness every day continue to motivate me and make me proud to be part of our patients' journeys. Likewise, I am proud to be a member of the Hospital Council, a Falls Prevention Advocate, and a member of the Kessler Foundation's Stroll ‘N Roll Planning Committee. Above all, I am so very fortunate to work with a dedicated TBI team. Our saying on the unit is simple: "TEAMWORK." We look out for patients, as well as one another.

I'll be the first to admit it's not always easy reporting to the unit for my shift. It can be very overwhelming. We care for a diverse patient population, not only in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic background, but also the type of injury which can range from stroke and motor vehicle accidents to gunshots, falls, viruses, tumors, and more. I've worked with patients from 16 years of age to 103, and each story is as unique as the people themselves. This level of experience continues to help me grow within the scope of my practice. And, I am grateful that my calling brought me here to Kessler where we work together and use the latest treatments, techniques, technologies, and therapies to give the patients and their loved ones the best possible rehabilitation experience.  

For More Information

Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation

Kessler Foundation's TBI research