Becoming an orthopedic nurse is the perfect career for someone interested in musculoskeletal issues like arthritis, fractures, and joint and bone diseases. Orthopedics is the branch of medicine focused on the entire musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, ligaments, muscles, soft tissues, and tendons. Aging, disease, and injuries can limit movement and cause pain. Most people can manage chronic musculoskeletal system pain and recover from injuries with the right medical intervention. Orthopedic nurses are part of the solution.
In this article, we will cover:
- What is an orthopedic nurse?
- What are the duties of an orthopedic nurse?
- What are the education requirements for orthopedic nurses?
- What is the job & salary outlook for orthopedic nurses?
What is a orthopedic nurse?
Orthopedic nurses can work in hospital units, offices, and outpatient care clinics. Because of this variety, they must be familiar with a large range of orthopedic conditions, medications, and operations. These nurses may even assist in the operating room. Orthopedic nurses work hard for their patients and provide them with a voice when it comes to a treatment plan by advocating and encouraging them when necessary. These nurses work with patients when they are at their most vulnerable which makes empathy and compassion two crucial character traits.
What are the duties of an orthopedic nurse?
Orthopedic nurses work directly with patients to help resolve issues about musculoskeletal pain. Occasional pain in the joints and muscles is normal. Lower back pain is the most reported musculoskeletal condition among adults, while arthritis is second.
A large part of their job duties centers on pain management. They evaluate new patients and assess their symptoms, then report back to the healthcare team to devise an appropriate treatment strategy.
Other common duties include:
- Assisting orthopedic doctors in administering care for musculoskeletal issues
- Educating patients on the best way to recuperate from orthopedic surgery or injuries
- Establishing a pain management schedule and assisting with administering pain medications for patients prescribed this protocol
- Helping patients improve mobility and strength following orthopedic surgery
- Monitoring patient vitals during surgeries and other treatments
- Treating injuries, casting breaks and fractures, and dressing wounds
Orthopedic nurses can work in clinics, hospitals, and private practices. Because of the versatility of this nursing specialty, opportunities also exist with assisted living centers, home health agencies, and outpatient rehabilitation centers.
What are the education requirements for orthopedic nurses?
Step 1: Education
Attend an accredited nursing school to earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). An ADN will take between 18 and 24 months to complete, while you can expect to spend roughly four years to earn a BSN. If you already have an ADN, there is an ADN to BSN bridge program that allows you to earn a BSN in 12-18 months. There is also an RN to BSN bridge which takes three semesters of nursing courses to be completed in one year. These programs will save you time and money. The more education you have, the better your chances of landing your dream job.
Step 2: Examination
When you are six weeks away from graduation, you can apply to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. There are 75 to 265 questions on the NCLEX-RN with a five-hour time limit for completion. If you do not pass the NCLEX-RN on your first attempt, you must wait 45 days before you can try again.
The NCLEX includes questions on the following topics to test nursing candidates’ knowledge:
1. Safe and effective care environment
2. Health promotion and maintenance
3. Psychosocial integrity
4. Physiological integrity
Step 3: Experience
This step in the process is to gain hands-on experience. This will provide you with invaluable opportunities to work with patients making you attractive to future employers.
Step 4: Certification
The final step is to obtain certifications for your chosen career.
Orthopedic nurses must obtain specific credentials to work in their field. The Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board issues the ONC® exam. Eligibility requirements include:
- Completing 1,000 hours as a working orthopedic RN;
- Possession of an unencumbered RN license;
- Working as a licensed RN for at least two years.
Credentialed orthopedic nurses must demonstrate continuing competence to renew their certification. Completing continuing education requirements focused on orthopedics is part of the process. Create a free account to access professional development mandates and get instant certificates.
What is the job & salary outlook for orthopedic nurses?
Orthopedic nurses make an average annual salary of $96,259, according to Zip Recruiter. Some states offer better wages than others. The top five states for the highest salaries for this nursing specialty include:
- Washington – $107,160
- Maryland – $105,798
- Nebraska – $103,590
- Virginia – $102,231
- New York – $102,111
The job outlook for orthopedic RNs, and all RNs, is rosy for the foreseeable future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 9 percent growth in the field between now and 2030. Interested in learning where the best-paying orthopedic nursing jobs are in the U.S.? Check out our Nurse Jobs Board to find the best fit.
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Top orthopedic nurse jobs on Incredible Health
Los Angeles, CA | $82,000 to $136,000 /year
Richmond, VA | $55,000 to $100,000 /year
Jacksonville, FL | $55,000 to $90,000 /year
Seattle, WA | $80,000 to $135,000 /year
Napa, CA | $60,000 to $118,000 /year