Specialization Spotlight: Orthopaedic Nursing

What Does an Orthopedic Nurse Do?

Orthopedic (also spelled "orthopaedic") nurses are specially trained to care for patients with muscle and bone problems, including:

  • Fractures
  • Arthritis
  • Congenital malformations
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Individuals recovering from joint replacement surgery

Orthopedic nurses may work in a variety of settings including emergency departments, operating rooms, physician offices, nursing facilities or home health agencies. An orthopedic nurse's title can vary from staff nurse to supervisor to clinical nurse specialist, and salaries average approximately $79,000 annually.

Education & Training to Become an Orthopedic Nurse

To become an orthopedic nurse, you much first earn a degree in registered nursing (RN) through an accredited nursing school or online nursing degree program. Following successful completion of the program you are required to pass a state licensing exam and background check.

Once you have become an RN, you have the option of pursuing certification through the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses to become Orthopedic Nurse Certified (ONC). This credential indicates proficiency within the specialty and is the only credential that documents expertise in the practice of orthopedic nursing. There are also two advanced practice nursing certifications offered: Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner (ONP-C) and Orthopedic Clinical Nurse Specialist (OCNS-C).

As registered nurses, orthopedic nurses should enjoy excellent job prospects and competitive salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nursing is one of the fastest growing occupations in the job market.

Typical Characteristics of an Orthopedic Nurse

Orthopedic nursing is a challenging discipline that demands physical stamina, patience, and the ability to adapt to patients of all ages, many of whom are coping with limitations and disabilities as a result of their illness or injury. Therefore, the ability to be empathetic and caring, yet firm when necessary is a very desirable attribute. Some patients require repeated motivation and reassurance to push through pain or uncertainty to achieve their wellness goals; however, witnessing them do so is an endless reward of the field.

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