What Is an Orthopaedic Nurse?

An orthopaedic nurse helps patients with musculoskeletal issues including broken or fractured bones, arthritis, osteoporosis, joint replacements, and other injuries and diseases. This often includes assisting in orthopaedic surgeries as well as following up during recovery to ensure that patients are properly regaining strength and range of motion. In addition, orthopaedic nurses are trained in casting, traction, and other therapeutic measures for those suffering from musculoskeletal problems, and often educate and train patients on ways to alleviate symptoms and prevent further injury.

Becoming an Orthopaedic Nurse

To gain experience, nurses who have worked in critical care, emergency room, surgical or other applicable settings will be well-poised to work within the orthopaedic specialty. There are also continuing education courses related to orthopaedics that can be completed for those interested in going into the field, including specialized courses in osteoporosis care, osteoarthritis care, and bodily trauma.

What Are the Education Requirements for Orthopaedic Nurses?

Earning an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) and passing the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed in the state is required. Many hospitals prefer a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree but it is not a requirement for all hospitals. Those wanting to continue their orthopaedic nursing education are encouraged to complete a Master's degree or higher.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

The Orthopaedic Nurses Certification exam (ONC) is the specific certification for the orthopaedic nurse. Eligibility requirements include working as an orthopaedic nurse for at least 1000 hours, working as a RN for at least 2 years, and having an unencumbered RN license. Contact hours are required for renewal.

Where Do Orthopaedic Nurses Work?

Typically, orthopaedic nurses work in hospitals, clinics, or private practices. However, the versatility of this nursing specialty means that there are additional settings where orthopaedic nurses are needed, including home health agencies, assisted living centers, and outpatient care facilities like rehabilitation centers. Orthopaedic nurses are also used in sports medicine and physical therapy.

What Does an Orthopaedic Nurse Do?

Orthopaedic nurses have many daily tasks, including seeing new patients and assessing symptoms, monitoring existing patients, and providing follow-up care to surgical patients. They also help with casting and wound dressing for the recently injured as well as motion therapy for those recuperating from injuries.

A large part of an orthopaedic nurse's job involves pain management. They often help administer, monitor, and assess pain medications for patients and explain proper procedures to help minimize further injury and infection, thus minimizing future pain.

What Are the Roles and Duties of an Orthopaedic Nurse?

  • Assist doctors in providing care for musculoskeletal problems
  • Monitor patients' vital signs
  • Help treat injuries with wound dressings or castings
  • Get a patient on a pain management schedule and assist in administering pain medications and monitoring for reactions and allergies
  • Educate patients on how to safely recuperate from surgery or injuries at home
  • Help patients improve strength and mobility following the correction of a musculoskeletal issue

What Does an Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner Do?

Nurse practitioners are healthcare providers that help meet patient care demand. In some states, nurse practitioners function independently. While nurse practitioner schools offer specialties in more general care areas such as family medicine or acute care, nurse practitioners can even further specialize in residency programs in subspecialties such as cardiology or orthopaedics.

Orthopaedic nurse practitioners have a variety of job duties. They see patients with many different musculoskeletal disorders or injuries. They can evaluate patients in the clinic setting or in the hospital setting, and order imaging, treatments, and procedures for patients. They may assist in orthopaedic surgeries and setting broken bones, as well as perform joint injections, set casts, or place splints. They also track healing from treatment interventions and order subsequent tests, plan follow-up care, and collaborate with other members of the healthcare team (i.e. physical therapists, staff nurses, and nutritionists) to ensure patient needs are met.

Orthopaedic NPs can even earn certification in the field. The Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB) offers certification for NPs. Requirements for certification include:

  • Three years of experience as an RN or APRN
  • Have a current, valid RN or APRN license
  • Hold a master's degree or higher

Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of APRN experience within the previous three years in the orthopaedic or musculoskeletal specialty, or who are enrolled in an orthopaedic fellowship or residency program through an accredited university.

Orthopaedic Nurse Salary & Employment

The average salary of an orthopaedic nurse is $76,282. Many things can affect salary, however, including experience, location, certifications, and education. The setting an orthopaedic nurse practices in can also cause wage fluctuations, as orthopaedic nurses can work in a variety of medical settings.

Due to the aging population, the demand for orthopaedic nurses continues to rise, making the job outlook very promising. Employers in many settings are in need of skilled orthopaedic nurses, so RNs in this particular specialty tend to be attractive hires.

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