How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse: Salary, Job Description and Outlook

Doctor and nurse examine x-raysAn orthopedic nurse, sometimes called an orthopaedic nurse, takes care of patients who have musculoskeletal injuries or diseases. The orthopedic nurse helps patients with broken bones, who have had orthopedic surgery, who have musculoskeletal defects, or who suffer from arthritis, osteoporosis or other diseases affecting bones or muscles. An orthopedic nurse administers medications, develops and implements care plans and provides education about orthopedic issues to patients, their families and to the community.

Table of Contents
How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse
Orthopedic Nursing on YouTube
Education Requirements
Orthopedic Nurse Job Description
Personality Traits
Career Options
Orthopedic Nurse Potential Career Path
More Orthopedic Nursing on YouTube
Orthopedic Nurse Salary
Orthopedic Nurse Certification
Cost of Certification
Professional Organizations
Relevant Publications
Apps for Orthopedic Nurses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to the field of orthopedic nurses but the website does offer an overview of registered nurses.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $63,871
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov
Salary information courtesy of LPN.com: http://www.lpn.com

How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse

To work as an orthopedic nurse, the individual:

  • Must have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in musculoskeletal disorders, geriatrics and orthopedics
  • May pursue voluntary certification from the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB)

Orthopedic Nursing on YouTube

Here’s a video of nurses at Avera McKennan Hospital discussing their experience in the Orthopedics Unit.

Orthopedic Nurse Education Requirements

Anyone wishing to work as an orthopedic nurse must already have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). A nurse with a current, unrestricted license may provide orthopedic care.

Nurses may also take advanced courses in orthopedics and pursue voluntary certification that demonstrates advanced knowledge and expertise in caring for patients with musculoskeletal issues. Nurses may also pursue additional education to become orthopedic nurse practitioners or specialists. The Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB) offers the Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner – Certified (ONP-C®) and Orthopaedic Clinical Nurse Specialist – Certified (OCNS-C®) designations for nurses with this advanced education.

Wilkes RN to MS

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Orthopedic Nurse Job Description

Orthopedic nurses work with patients who have muscle or bone issues. The job description of an orthopedic nurse includes assessing the condition of new patients, monitoring the condition of existing patients, providing orthopedic treatments and administering medications.

The orthopedic nurse may provide care to patients who have recently undergone surgery to repair muscles, bones, and connective tissue. The nurse monitors the patient’s condition, records vital signs, monitors the surgical site, changes dressings and informs the physician of any changes in the patient’s condition. The primary goal of the orthopedic nurse is to keep the patient comfortable, which may include repositioning the patient and administering pain relievers as needed.

The orthopedic nurse also performs basic nursing functions, such as changing bedpans, helping patients walk, creating and implementing patient care plans, insertion of needles for intravenous (IV) fluids and medications, and providing information and support to patients and families.

Personality traits of an orthopedic nurse:

  • Compassionate
  • Strong critical-thinking skills
  • Organized
  • Patient
  • Emotional stability
  • Strong communication skills
  • Detail-oriented

The orthopedic nurse reports to the nurse manager or department head at a hospital or clinic.

Career Options

Typical workplaces for an orthopedic nurse include:

  • Emergency departments
  • Operating rooms
  • Orthopedic units
  • Medical/Surgical units
  • Trauma units
  • Geriatric units
  • Rehabilitation units
  • Oncology (cancer) units
  • Home health agencies
  • Universities and colleges of nursing

There are currently no statistics available regarding job outlook for orthopedic nurses but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does expect the number of registered nurse jobs to increase by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The number of positions for orthopedic nurses will likely rise at that same rate or higher, based on the aging population of the United States, as older Americans are at a high risk for arthritis, fractures from falls and other orthopedic problems.

Potential Career Path for Orthopedic Nurses

Nurses who thrive in the orthopedic nurse field can move into management roles, with additional education.

  • Head Nurse
  • Nursing Instructor
  • Nurse Manager
  • Director of Nursing
  • Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
  • Orthopedic Clinical Nurse Specialist

More Orthopedic Nursing on YouTube

Here’s a video of an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner as she describes her role at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Orthopedic Nurse Salary

The average orthopedic nurse salary is $69,000, according to Indeed.com. There are currently no statistics available regarding job outlook for orthopedic nurses but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does expect the number of registered nurse jobs to increase by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The number of positions for orthopedic nurses will likely rise at that same rate or higher, based on the aging population of the United States, as older Americans are at a high risk for arthritis, fractures from falls and other orthopedic problems.

Orthopedic Nurse Certification

The Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB) offers certification by exam to nurses who have worked as registered nurses for at least two years. Certification demonstrates special expertise in providing orthopedic care.

Certification is valid for five years. Recertification requires retaking and passage of the certification exam or by meeting the continuing education requirements

Cost of Certification for Orthopedic Nurses

Fee Schedule:

  • $290 NAON (National Association of Orthopedic Nurses) members, online application
  • $315 NAON members, paper application
  • $405 non-members, online application
  • $430 non-members, paper application

Recertification every 5 years:

  • Requirements: 1,000 hours of practice during previous 5 years AND 100 contact hours of education (minimum 70 hours in clinical orthopaedics, up to 30 hours in general nursing)

Fees:

  • $275 NAON members, $340 non-members with LearningBuilder submission
  • $275 NAON members, $390 non-members with paper submission

Professional Organizations

Relevant Publications

Apps for Orthopedic Nurses

orthopaedic nursing appOrthopaedic Nursing: Free (iOS)
This app displays articles on current events, organizational activities, research, product and drug information, and literature findings on topics in the Orthopaedic Nursing field.
CORE appCORE - Clinical Orthopedic Exam: $39.99 (iOS) / (Android)
This app offers over 400 clinical tests with detailed descriptions on how the exams should be performed, video demonstrations, how to diagnose a patient, and links to medical references.

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