Medical rehabilitation consists of learning appropriate behaviors related to specific disabilities. Lack of motivation on the part of the patient is frequently identified by health personnel as being a principle obstacle to the patient’s relearning basic skills necessary for his re- habilitation. This study was undertaken to explore the use of operant conditioning in teaching stabilized stroke patients to dress themselves and thus, increase their self-care independence. Social rewards (praise and attention) coupled with a dressing chart to provide feedback of progress, were the reinforcers.

A case study approach was used to study six participants who ranged in ages from 44 to 77 years. Each of them had a residual hemiplegia or hemiparesis resulting from a stroke. None was capable of dressing him- self prior to the study. Four or five 15-30 minute sessions were spent with the participants over time periods verying from seven to ten days. Each one could follow simple directions. The time post-stroke ranged from ten days to two years. All the participants made measurable improvement during the study.

This study has significance for nursing personnel in various clinical situations. Operant conditioning can be a tool for active nurse participation in helping patients gain self-care skills and hasten the rehabilitation process.

Recommendations include: (1) Matching patients with similar perceptual and physical difficulties to determine if reinforcement contingency programs shorten hospitalization; (2) Study a larger group of patients of varying lengths of time post-infarct to determine optimum time for reinforcement programs; (3) An objective appraisal of two individuals at the beginning and at the end of the reinforcement program to rule out bias; (4) Follow up evaluation after an extended period of time to reveal continuation of dressing practice.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Dorothy M. Martin

Second Advisor

Donald R. Miller

Third Advisor

Joyce Reiswig

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Cerebrovascular Disorders -- rehabilitation



Page Count

vi; 62

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

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