Orthopedic Nurse

Orthopedic Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
Orthopedic nurses take care of patients suffering from musculoskeletal disorders.  Some of the most common types of illnesses and injuries include arthritis, bone fractures, joint replacements, osteoporosis, diabetes, and broken bones.  Nurses who specialize in orthopedics may work in a various roles in a wide range of environments including orthopedic units in hospitals, clinics, emergency rooms, operating rooms, trauma centers, rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, and private orthopedic practices.

Nurses working in orthopedics help patients by performing the following job duties:

  • Evaluate patient’s conditions
  • Assist doctors with patient examination and care
  • Prepare patients for surgery
  • Educating patients regarding treatments
  • Assist during surgery
  • Care for patients before and after surgery
  • Teach patients and their family members proper home care
  • Assist with patient mobility

How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse

Nurses with a specialization in orthopedics work with a wide range of patients and must be highly trained.  Those interested in specializing in this area of medicine must first start by becoming a registered nurse, RN.  You must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to earn certification.  Many specialty nurses go on to further their education by earning a Master’s degree in nursing (MSN).

After becoming a certified nurse, you will need to gain experience working in the area of orthopedics (also known as orthopaedics), if possible.  This experience is helpful before taking additional courses or entering a Masters in nursing program.  Some of the areas of experience that should be considered include critical care facilities, emergency rooms, surgical settings, and cancer clinics.

Orthopedic Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

An orthopedic nurse must first earn a Bachelor of Science Nursing degree, BSN.  This degree is a four-year degree in general nursing, however, the aspiring nurse who specializes in orthopedics should take special courses in anatomy and orthopedics.  Following some nursing experience, nurses may decide to pursue a Master’s degree in Nursing (MSN).

After graduating with a BSN or MSN degree, nurses may choose to become certified. Orthopedic nurses receive certification through the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB). The board bestows the credential of Orth0peadic Nurse Certified (ONC) on eligible applicants who pass a certification exam. Certification is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC). Although it is not required, certification is highly valued by employers. The exam consists of questions pertaining to multiple topics such as degenerative disorders, orthopedic trauma, sports injuries, musculoskeletal tumors and more. Eligible applicants must have two years experience working as a Registered Nurse (RN) and 1,000 hours spent working in orthopedics. The National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON) mentors nurses in the orthopedic field.

Orthopedic Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

Nurses with a specialization in orthopedics work with a wide range of patients making the need for these types of nurses high.  The area of orthopedics is growing rapidly.  The need for nurses in this field is expected to climb greatly over the next decades.  Nurses are necessary in many areas of medicine including clinics, hospitals, private practice, hospice, long-term care facilities, pediatrics, geriatrics, and sports medicine.  They may work in a clinical office setting or may assist in surgeries.

Those with the most education and experience in the area of orthopaedics will achieve the highest salary levels.  The annual salary range for a nurse in this specialized area is from $52,000 to $64,000.  However, some highly trained nurses with management skills may earn as much as $90,000 per year.  Nurses working in highly specialized areas such as orthopedic nursing can expect to earn the highest salaries.