Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Cancer Rehabilitation

Medical teams led by physiatrists, or physicians who specialize in rehabilitation, determine a customized plan for each cancer patient, designed to maximize their independence and help them return to the things that matter most to them whenever possible. Additional medical professionals with specializations such as pulmonology, neurology and neuropsychology may be consulted when appropriate.  

Madonna therapists work alongside physicians to help patients regain skills that may have been impaired by cancer treatment. Physical and occupational therapists utilize specially designed spaces to simulate life at home and in the community as well as provide variety and keep patients engaged. Family members are encouraged to participate in therapy sessions whenever possible. Our language and cognition lab allows patients to work outside of formal speech therapy sessions.

Registered nurses with rehabilitation training and experience are on staff at all times to care for patients. Madonna’s nursing model supports a 24/7 rehabilitation approach allowing patients additional opportunities to practice daily skills learned and supported by therapy throughout their rehabilitation stay, even outside of scheduled therapy sessions.

Madonna provides a comprehensive continuum of care for our cancer patients, regardless of severity.

Madonna is unique in that we offer two hospital levels of care on both our Omaha and Lincoln campuses. Our specialty hospitals (commonly known as LTACH, or long term acute care) are overseen by internal medicine hospitalists, providing complex medical care for patients with a broad range of needs. Our approach to complex medical care enables patients to participate in rehabilitation from their first days at Madonna. The therapy process is customized to each cancer patient based on their diagnosis and abilities, but the goal at this level is to help the patient tolerate increased activity while building up their endurance and strength to either return home or move to the acute rehabilitation level of care. 

Our acute rehabilitation level of care delivers an intense program by providing three or more hours of therapy per day. By focusing on community reintegration and getting patients ready to resume their life activities, the goal at the acute care level is to resume the highest level of independence possible. Having both levels of care on the same campus minimizes the need for transfer, provides continuity and enables collaboration among clinical teams.

Our Rehabilitation Day Program (RDP) may be appropriate at the next stage. Patients return to our campus 2-5 times per week for several daily hours of therapy, split among multiple disciplines of occupational, speech and physical therapy. RDP allows for community reintegration while still benefiting from a rigorous therapy schedule.

Outpatient therapy is offered through Madonna’s TherapyPlus clinics. Frequency of therapy is unique to each patient. Outpatient therapy can include one or more discipline and vary in frequency depending on patient needs.

Madonna staffs licensed respiratory care practitioners at all times. Our respiratory therapists are able to provide arterial blood gas (ABG) services, ventilator management and weaning as well as tracheostomy management and weaning. Madonna is recognized as a Center of Excellence for Vapotherm and the Passy-Muir valve, specialized technology utilized for patients with tracheostomy tubes.

We provide a daily education series to patients and families to equip them with the knowledge of brain structure as it relates to understanding cancer rehabilitation, fall prevention, wellness, recreation and leisure, nutrition, emotional change following cancer and aging with a disability. 

Rehabilitation after cancer is not just about regaining basic skills of self-care and mobility. The ability to resume one’s life role and reintegrate back into the community is an important component. Madonna integrates a variety of community re-entry, recreational, leisure and adaptive sports and recreation opportunities into the rehabilitation process. Therapy may include off-site visits to locations that may be challenging for cancer patients. Patients may also work on specific goals related to returning to work, school or driving during their rehabilitation stay.

Madonna provides a full range of inpatient pharmacy services, including medication distribution, patient education and clinical/dosing services.

Madonna is able to provide radiology services that include X-ray, CT scan, ultrasound, echocardiogram, venous doppler, arterial doppler, Holter monitor, sleep study and electroencephalogram (EEG).

Madonna's hospitals utilize in-house laboratory services to help diagnose and monitor patient conditions. Tests such as anticoagulation, hematology, chemistry, therapeutic drug level testing and urine analysis services with results often available the same day.

Neuropsychologists and rehabilitation counselors are an integral part of stroke rehabilitation at Madonna. They provide a variety of services, including neuropsychological assessment, adjustment counseling, family therapy, memory testing, dementia evaluation, behavioral management and psychoeducation. Our rehabilitation counselors also provide support, individually or in group settings, for family and caregivers affected by the patient’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.


Assistive Technology Professional certified therapists provide seating and positioning evaluations for patients who require the use of a wheelchair for mobility.

Spiritual care is an important component of healing. Madonna is committed to meeting the needs of our patients, regardless of their individual beliefs. Chaplains and other spiritual care professionals consult with the care teams and visit patients to provide direct support when requested. Chapels are available on both campuses, as well as ample green spaces for contemplation and respite.

Madonna’s cancer patients and their caregivers are provided with a self-care training program based upon principles of self-advocacy and self-direction. Patients are taught how to direct their care and what to do if emergencies arise. They are provided opportunities to practice these skills during their stay, ending with a two-night stay in Madonna’s transitional living apartment. This apartment is located on the unit, with easy access to medical staff if needed, with the expectation that a family member or caregiver will assist with personal care required during their stay. The patient will direct his or her care and independently follow a therapy schedule. 

Madonna is the only hospital in the region to provide an extensive vision rehabilitation program delivered by specially trained experts who use state-of-the-art technology to help patients of all ages with visual impairments resulting from illness or injury to maximize their quality of life in home and community-related roles.


Madonna's Continence Specialty Program helps patients who, because of an illness or serious injury, experience bowel and bladder dysfunction symptoms regain control and return to their life roles.

Madonna clinicians employ an integrative medicine approach, which includes services like aromatherapy, deep breathing, guided imagery and calming techniques, alongside traditional medical techniques for cancer paients. Daily group wellness sessions are available to help teach holistic approaches to the management of the side effects of cancer treatment. 

Madonna is committed to the lifelong success and wellness of our patients. When possible, we offer services such as home modifications, assistive technology, orthotics, prosthetics and emotional support resources for patients during and after their preparation to return home. 


Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital offers comprehensive programming for individuals’ of any age with all types of cancers from recent diagnosis or receiving concurrent cancer treatment all the way throughout the survivorship spectrum. Madonna’s multiple levels of inpatient care, as well as outpatient services ensures we are able to offer each patient with cancer the right type of care at the right time.

Madonna’s Cancer Program served 277 patients across inpatient and outpatient levels of care at both campuses in FY 2023. Approximately 39% of patients’ permanent residences were outside the Lincoln and Omaha metro.

Scope of services
Madonna’s goal is to help the people we serve become as independent as possible, while establishing a partnership for life that the patient and family can turn to when needed. Programming is highly individualized and dependent upon each person’s needs. Family members are encouraged to be actively involved in the patient’s care and to attend therapy sessions whenever possible so they may reinforce new techniques being taught. Research shows a positive correlation between family involvement and the rate in which patients return home. Madonna’s Cancer Program provides interventions in the following areas:

  • Assessment and Treatment: Patients and families are taught prevention, how to recognize the signs/symptoms of cancer recurrence or new onset, and receive treatment for conditions related to their cancer and its complications.
  • Addressing Risk Factors: Risk for relapse, cancer advancement, and/or new onset of cancer in addition to mitigating negative cancer side effects is assessed and addressed. Patients and their families are taught about these risk factors.
  • Functional progress: The overall goal of the program is to gain as much functional independence allowed within the means of the patient’s medical and cancer status. This is accomplished with skilled rehabilitation interventions, training, and use of adaptive equipment and/or techniques.
  • Coping Skills: Rehabilitation psychologists, other clinicians, and peer volunteers assist patients and their support system with learning techniques for coping and adapting to life after a cancer diagnosis.
  • Return to Life Roles: Resuming ones’ life role and reintegrating back into the community is another goal of the Cancer Program at Madonna. Returning to life roles is taught within therapeutic activities and is simulated and practiced throughout the rehabilitation process.
  • Services for Families: Cancer affects the whole family and involvement of spouses, children, and others in the patient's support system is a vital part of recovery. Madonna's Cancer Program encourages caregivers and support systems to be involved in education, training, peer support, support groups and counseling.

Clinical Expertise: Each patient's care is directed by a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and/or a physician with specialization in internal medicine. For individuals who are 18 years or younger, a pediatrician is involved in their care on a daily basis. All Madonna nurses are specially trained in providing care for patients with cancer, and several Madonna nurses have specialty training as a Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN).

Rehabilitation: Madonna has a dedicated team of professionals who have completed special competency training in the treatment of persons with cancer. Each individual's treatment team is made up of physical, occupational, speech, recreational and respiratory therapists, pharmacist, nutritionist, social worker, rehabilitation nurses and case manager, as well as staff from neuropsychology as appropriate. They work together with the patient and their family/caregiver to meet the unique physical, cognitive, social and emotional needs of the patient.

Days and Hours of Service: Therapy services are provided Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Patients receive on average, three hours of therapy per day, five days per week in acute rehabilitation and are seen on average, 2-3 times per week on an outpatient basis as appropriate. Saturday and Sunday therapies are provided on an as needed basis for inpatients.

Fees: Cost of care is determined by diagnosis, level of care, medical acuity and length of stay.

Madonna accepts patients with a variety of funding, including Medicare, Nebraska Medicaid, commercial insurances such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, worker’s compensation, and will consider out-of-state Medicaid and non-funded patients on a case by case basis. For more information, click here. Environment: Madonna's environment affords individuals with cancer many opportunities to interact and support one another, whether it is in the spacious gym area during therapy, sharing a meal in the congregate dining areas, or participating in a leisure activity outside in one of many lounge and garden areas. Madonna is the only facility in the region to have a simulated community, called Independence Square, where patients may engage in real-life skills training, such as grocery shopping, cooking a meal, getting in and out of an actual vehicle or standard bed, or up and down a simulated tractor stair case.

Community Re-entry: Rehabilitation does not end when the patient gains basic skills of self-care and mobility. Participation in a variety of community re-entry and adaptive sports and recreational outings can be integrated into therapy or just for fun. Patients may also work on specific goals related to return to driving, school re-entry, or visit with a vocational rehabilitation counselor about work re-entry.

Preparation for Home: Madonna's patients with cancer and their caregivers are provided with a self-care training program based upon principles of self-advocacy and self-direction. Patients, with or without their caregivers, are taught how to direct their care and what to do if emergencies arise. They are provided with opportunities to practice these skills during their stay, frequently ending with a stay in Madonna's transitional living apartment. This apartment is onsite, with easy access to medical staff if needed, with the expectation that a family member or other caregiver will assist with the personal care required during their stay. The patient will direct his/her care and independently follow his/her therapy schedule. In addition, a 5-day daily cancer education class is provided for all patients and family members/caregivers on a variety of cancer related topics.

Home Assessment: Another way to prepare the patient for a successful transition to home is by offering the opportunity for patients to return home for the day to practice skills in their home setting while evaluating the home for accessibility and any adaptations or modifications that may be required. For patients and families who live outside Lincoln and Omaha and the surrounding communities, a paper/pencil home assessment form and/or virtual telehealth assessment is provided for the family member or caregiver to complete.

Long-term Follow-Up: Madonna offers many ways to help individuals with cancer and their family members continue to improve and maintain their functional gains, therefore maximizing their participation throughout the rest of their life.

  • It is important that individuals completing rehabilitation stay active and exercise safely. We promote success by teaching how and what to do in a community based fitness environment, featuring trained staff and specially adapted equipment.
  • After you experience a cancer, you may be confronted with a wide range of challenges throughout your lifetime. Because these challenges and limitations may not be evident until later, focusing on maintaining health long-term, including preventing secondary complications, is an important part of lifelong care planning.
  • A representative from Madonna will contact you approximately 72 hours after discharge and again between 30-60 days after discharge to see how you are doing and to gather outcome information.

Virtual Services: Madonna’s Cancer Education and Survivorship Group and outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy services are available virtually for patients and families who may have transportation, geographical or other barriers to accessing these services in person. Madonna offers telehealth services for psychiatric consults at the Omaha campus, as well as virtual counseling services if needed. Virtual services can potentially be provided in any geographic region of the United States. Madonna is limited by professional licensing requirements by state and currently has a mix of therapists and physicians licensed to provide virtual services in the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.

Meet Your Interdisciplinary Team

A physical medicine and rehabilitation physician is available 24 hours per day and seven days a week. They manage all the health problems and complications as a result of the spinal cord injury and other medical conditions that may have existed before the injury. The physiatrist works in conjunction with the person’s hometown or family physician and other specialists, which may include an orthopedic surgeon, neurologist or internal medicine physician.

A pediatrician is involved in the daily care of individuals 18 years or younger.

The Neuropsychologist is trained to assess thinking skills including memory and problem solving and assists the person to understand spinal cord injury and implement compensation strategies. The neuropsychologist consults with the other clinicians on the treatment team if adjustment, behavioral changes or learning difficulties, are slowing progress in therapies. The neuropsychologist can work with the individual and family to help with emotional and adjustment issues which often accompany a spinal cord injury. The neuropsychologist is available to counsel with families, to support and encourage survivors and families and to enhance coping skills.

Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurses are an integral part of any rehabilitation team. They have additional training and experience in rehabilitation diagnoses and their associated impairments, adaptive techniques for independent functioning, and potential complications. They develop and implement nursing care plans, provide patient family education, and supervise other direct care staff, such as nursing assistants.

A physical therapist (PT) assesses the person’s ability to move in and out of bed, a chair or car; the ability to walk or drive a wheelchair, as well as strength, balance and endurance. The therapist can provide a variety of activities to improve these areas. The PT also teaches family members and friends how to safely help the person out of the chair, into a car, to walk and go up and down stairs.

An occupational therapist (OT) assesses a person’s present abilities regarding activities of daily living, or ADL, with the goal of community re-integration. ADLs include skills such as dressing, bathing, toileting and eating, as well as homemaking and community skills. The OT works with arm and shoulder strengthening, vision changes and higher level thinking skills such as problems solving tasks, and job-related skills. The OT teaches the use of adaptive equipment to increase each person’s ability to complete ADLs with less assistance.

The speech language pathologist focuses not only on the person’s speech or ability to talk clearly, but also on all aspects of communication such as talking, understanding what others say, reading, writing, taking turns in conversation, concentration and memory. They help patients who cannot talk find other ways of communicating. They also evaluate and treat difficulties the person may have with swallowing.

To enhance leisure skills while at Madonna, individuals are offered therapeutic recreation after a referral from the treatment team. A recreation therapist discusses leisure lifestyle preferences prior to the injury with each person and family member to determine specific hobbies or interests. Leisure education sessions focus on relearning an activity or learning to modify a leisure activity by using equipment or different rules. The recreation therapist integrates the skills learned in other therapies for leisure activities. Community outings are available with the recreation therapist to practice skills needed to return back to the community.

Each person at Madonna has an assigned case manager who will lead the team in efforts to help recovery. The case manager communicates with representatives from the insurance company and keeps them informed of an individual’s progress plans. They will regularly visit with the person and his or her family members to see how the person and family feel the program is progressing and to help coordinate plans for discharge. This planning is to help assure a smooth transition from the rehabilitation setting to home or an alternative living setting.

The social worker assists the person and family with emotional and social concerns. He or she is available to assist the person, their family and friends to understand the effects of the injury and to learn how family and friends can adjust and be helpful in the recovery process. The social worker is able to assist survivors and their families to find support groups and communicate with other survivors of spinal cord injury and their families. At the time of admission, the social worker starts working on the discharge plan with family. The social worker will discuss community support services based on the team’s predictions of the person’s needs at that time.

The chapel is the center of Madonna, both literally and spiritually. It is open 24 hours a day for private meditation and prayer. The schedule of services is posted outside the chapel. Mission Services provides spiritual and religious support by offering daily Catholic Mass and regular Protestant services. A member of Mission Services visits regularly with every person to offer pastoral counseling. They also meet with individuals and their families on an on-call basis. Mission Services coordinates with the person's pastor when appropriate.

The Angel Dog program, an extension of Mission Services, combines traditional pet therapy with spiritual care. Trained handlers and their dogs can be referred to your family member for therapeutic visits.

The respiratory therapist (RT) provides specialized care for the individual with breathing and respiratory difficulties following spinal cord injury. The RT works with the team to wean the individual from a ventilator and/or tracheostomy. He or she also administers and monitors medications prescribed by the physician to improve a person's ability to cough, breath and resist infection.

Through the Driver Retraining Program, an occupational therapist evaluates the person's driving skills and retrains him or her, if appropriate.

Licensed medical nutrition therapists staff the Nutrition Therapy Department. A nutritional assessment is completed for each person during the first part of his or her stay. A person's diet history and food preferences are obtained, either from the person or from a family member. The nutrition therapist routinely assesses the individual's weight and dietary intake and adjusts his or her diet according to each individual's needs. When a person has a special diet, the nutrition therapist instructs him or her and family members about how to maintain the specialized diet while in the hospital and at home.

For school-aged individuals, the education specialist is the liaison between the rehabilitation team and the school. He or she coordinates school meetings, training and assists school personnel to make the necessary modifications for a smooth transition back to the educational setting. The education specialist also works with college-aged individuals or those persons who wish to earn a general education degree (GED).

A certified prosthetist specializes in the fit and production of an artificial limb for those with amputations. They work collaboratively with the physician and other team members immediately after the amputation to prepare the patient’s limb for a prosthesis, and then after the wound is healed regarding the fit and proper use of the device. A certified orthotist specializes in the fit and production of a limb brace. They work collaboratively with the physician and other team members to insure proper fit and use of the brace.

Patient Stories