Orthopedic nursing focuses on the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Orthopedic issues range from acute problems such as fractures or hospitalization for joint replacement to chronic systemic disorders such as loss of bone density. Orthopedic nurses have specialized skills such as neurovascular status monitoring, traction, continuous passive motion therapy, casting, and care of patients with external fixation. An important part of this job is educating the patients and the families about self-care and available support systems.

Duties of an Orthopedic Nurse

The orthopedic nurse is involved with patient care and relationships, making a difference for that patient, teamwork, and hard work. Some nurses discover that orthopedic nursing isn’t for them, as orthopedic nursing can be a very physical profession. An orthopedic nurse will care for patients after orthopedic surgery to help them regain their strength and mobility. Orthopedic nurses deal with patients who have arthritis, joint replacements, diabetes, fractures, musculoskeletal injuries and congenital malformations, and all these issues require therapy as well as surgery or other procedures. The nurse is there to help that patient work through musculoskeletal disorders to become as fully functional as possible.

Orthopedic nurses also work in a variety of settings such as a hospital unit, physician’s office, ambulatory care centers, emergency room, operating room, rehabilitation facility, community service programs, the client’s home and other environments. As an orthopedic nurse, you will learn about various equipment and other modalities used to make patients more comfortable, to improve their mobility, and to prevent complications. This expertise can lead to a career in a number of other areas as well as in orthopedic environments. Orthopedic nurses often deal with trauma patients, so the transition from orthopedic nursing to critical care nursing may seem logical for some nurses.

Related Types of Nurses

Orthopedic nurses may practice in trauma, pediatrics, the operating room, gerontology, medical or surgical units, home care, extended care, emergency departments, sports medicine, offices, advanced practice, patient education, case management and staff education. The diversity involved in this type of experience can lead to specializations for the orthopedic nurse or for a different path into another nursing environment. Other nursing professions that are similar to orthopedic nursing include nurses for schools and sports teams, nursing home nurses, critical care nursing and as counselors or consultants for the study of kinesthetics or in pain management.

Orthopedic Nursing Degrees

Most facilities that offer orthopedic services require nurses with an RN with ADN, diploma, or BSN. Certification in orthopedic nursing results in the designation “Orthopedic Nurse Certified” (ONC), a status that often is required by many hiring institutions as well.