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How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

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If you feel it in your bones, orthopedic nursing is for you! 

Puns aside, most specializations feel this way for those who choose to focus on them. As you advance your career as a healthcare professional and experience different areas of medicine, you’re likely to be drawn to a specialty. And if you’re not, that’s fine, too. The world needs plenty of nurses who can adapt to any specialty where they’re needed. 

Suppose you’re a nurse or an aspiring medical professional interested in the musculoskeletal system and have the empathy and fortitude to work with patients recovering from surgeries and injuries. Why not pursue an advanced career as an orthopedic nurse practitioner? 

Make no bones about it––plenty of elderly patients, athletes, and individuals who’ve undergone surgery would be grateful to receive care from a seasoned, compassionate orthopedic nurse practitioner. We’ll teach you about this career, what it involves and how to get started. 

What’s an orthopedic nurse practitioner?

Before we explain what an orthopedic nurse practitioner is, let’s take a step back. What’s a nurse practitioner (NP)? 

Nurse practitioners are high-level medical professionals in nursing who work with a greater sense of autonomy than registered nurses (RNs). When a physician is not around, nurse practitioners diagnose conditions and even prescribe meds (outpatient and inpatient). 


An orthopedic nurse practitioner is an advanced role with many responsibilities. And in case you were wondering: yes, there are “regular” orthopedic nurses. If you’re interested in the field, you have options. You don’t need to pursue an advanced degree to participate in orthopedic medicine.

Orthopedic nurse practitioners work with patients who have musculoskeletal conditions, including arthritis, osteoporosis, and injuries (like broken bones). Just like RNs, NPs work alongside physicians and clinicians in a team. This team works together to implement care plans to address patients’ needs.  

What does an orthopedic nurse practitioner do?

A clear idea of what day-to-day work will look like in any career is promising. So, let’s delve into the finite tasks orthopedic nurse practitioners perform:

  • Examining patients 
  • Assessing symptoms of musculoskeletal problems
  • Sending for tests 
  • Performing treatments 
  • Administering pain medications and providing pain management care
  • Taking X-rays 
  • Performing wound care
  • Monitoring vital signs 
  • Setting fractures 
  • Assisting patients in the pre-, intra-, and post-op phases of orthopedic surgery
  • Educating patients on their conditions
  • Providing tips for at-home rehabilitation 

How to become an orthopedic nurse practitioner

Since an orthopedic nurse practitioner is an advanced role, one must earn their title through advanced education. So now might be a good time to read up on scholarships and student loan forgiveness

Here are the educational benchmarks you’ll need to accomplish to become an orthopedic nurse practitioner:

  1. Get a degree from an accredited nursing program

The first step in any nursing career is earning a degree. There are two options: an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)—we recommend the latter if you plan to pursue an advanced nursing career. If you opt for an ADN, you’ll have to earn your BSN before becoming a nurse practitioner by completing a bridge program or your full bachelor’s degree. 

  1. Get Licensed 

Before you can practice as an RN, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Once you do, you should seek licensure from your state. This will bring you a step closer to becoming an NP.

  1. Get experience 

There’s nothing quite like on-the-job training providing patient care, especially when you plan to focus on a particular area of medicine. Before applying for a master’s program or doctorate, try to have at least a few years of clinical practice. Gaining relevant experience is great to include in your applications and resumes. 

  1. Pursue an advanced nursing education 

To become an NP, you’ll need to earn an advanced nursing degree like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

  1. Get Certified 

After completing your master’s degree or doctorate, you’ll need to seek certification in orthopedics. Clear the Orthopedic Nursing Certification (ONC) exam conducted by the Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB), and you’ll be ready to practice as an orthopedic nurse practitioner. Remember, to be eligible for this certification, you’ll have 2,000 hours of advanced practice nursing experience in orthopedics. 

You may also want to check out an orthopedic nurse practitioner fellowship program, which will keep you updated on the latest advancements. These orthopedic nurse practitioner programs provide focused information on clinical skills and subject areas such as trauma, sports injuries, spine conditions, oncology, pediatrics, and urgent care. 

What is the average salary of an orthopedic nurse practitioner?

One of the perks of an advanced career in nursing is the salary. While full-time RNs may earn around $75,000 annually, NPs often earn over $100,000 yearly. On average, an orthopedic nurse practitioner’s salary is around $118,200 annually. Actual salaries vary depending on the location and years of experience.


A piece of great news for all aspirants––since the U.S. has an aging population in need of medical care, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects high growth in orthopedic nurse practitioner jobs. 

Regardless of your specialty, we’ve got your back. We’ll cheer you on as you overcome the challenges of your education and career and ensure you look and feel good while doing it. Our durable scrubs will support you as you support others in their recovery!

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