One of the joys of becoming a healthcare professional is many ways to specialize within your field. You can opt for a specialty that interests you emotionally or intellectually or even find one that aligns well with your interests.
Do you love running half marathons or training at the CrossFit gym? Have you jumped on the indoor cycling trend? If you’re a fan of athletic pursuits, a career in sports medicine nursing or orthopedics might be right up your alley. That way, you’ll be working around subject matter that excites you while doing what you do best: helping others.
Before any long run, ride or lifting session, you should always research how to achieve your goals best—the same rules apply to becoming a nurse. That’s where we come in to help. Read on to learn what you’ll need to do to become an orthopedic nurse, including what education and certifications to take you across the proverbial finish line.
What is an orthopedic nurse?
Want the basic orthopedic nursing job description? We think it’s still pretty complex—but in a good way. An orthopedic nurse works with patients suffering from conditions that affect their muscles and bones, such as arthritis, broken and fractured bones, joint conditions and osteoporosis.
In short, orthopedic nurses help patients be their strongest, most mobile selves, and a lot of the work focuses on recovery, whether after an injury or surgery.
What does an orthopedic nurse do?
So, what does the work of an orthopedic nurse look like on a daily basis? Let’s break down the roles and duties of an orthopedic nurse.
Orthopedic nurses help patients before, during and after surgery, and they generally assist patients who require some level of muscular or skeletal recovery. Here are some of the key orthopedic nurse duties, from the most basic to the most complex:
- Assess patients’ symptoms
- Dress and care for wounds and injuries
- Help with pain management
- Monitor vitals
- Take samples for lab work
- Administer IVs
- Examine bones and muscles
- Assist with motion therapy and devices
- Apply casts
- Provide patients with recovery strategies and information on their conditions
A day in the life of an orthopedic nurse
You can’t always get hands-on experience in a role before you start, so how can you be sure that orthopedic nursing is something you’d like day-to-day?
You’ll check in on your patients in the morning and likely assist in any tasks leftover from the night shift. You’ll also share any pertinent info with physicians or surgeons.
You may receive new patients in the afternoons and help surgeons prep for surgery. You also may take on some discharge work at this time and help patients and families understand their route to recovery.
You’ll prepare everything for the next day by talking with your team and the physicians you report to at the end of your shift. Then you can finish your day off with a relaxing yoga session or a nice, head-clearing run—whatever makes you feel your best.
How do you become an orthopedic nurse?
It’s time to curl up on your couch in some comfortable scrubs with some heavy science books. To become an orthopedic nurse, you’ll first need to get your college degree—in this case, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree. If you have your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) already, you can opt to find a bridge program to take your schooling to the Bachelor’s level.
After you have all your education in the bag, you’ll have to get certified. That means sitting for the NCLEX-RN exam, and after passing, you’ll be a Registered Nurse (RN).
Then you’ll sit for the Orthopedic Nurses Certification exam (ONC), but only after completing 1,000 clinical hours and having worked as an RN for two years.
How do you become an orthopedic nurse practitioner?
If you want to take your career even further, you can become an orthopedic nurse practitioner.
An orthopedic nurse practitioner’s certification is advanced, which means you’ll be taking your education to the next level. We think learning is fun and enriching, especially when it’s about something you love.
To become an orthopedic nurse, you’ll have to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The great thing about getting this degree is that it’s the foundation for many advanced specializations and leads to better jobs and higher earnings.
But wait! You’re not done yet. To finish up this marathon of education and certification, you’ll need to put in some training (not at the gym but at work). To get your Orthopedic Nursing Certification (ONP-C) from the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB), you’ll have to first log 2,000 clinical hours as an Advanced Practice Clinical Nurse (APRN).
So, what’s that finish line? Getting your Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Certified (ONP-C) certification. It really is on par with taking home the gold.
What’s the career outlook for orthopedic nurses?
As is the case with most nursing jobs, those in the orthopedic specialty are on the up and up. An RN career is expected to experience a 9% growth rate by 2030. How’s the money? In the United States, the average orthopedic nurse’s salary in 2020 was $75,330 annually.
If you’re thinking about taking your career to the next level as an orthopedic nurse practitioner, you’ll see a boost in your salary. The average salary for this role is around $113,000 annually and can go even higher. It is one of the better-paying nursing roles.