Orthopedic Nurse: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an orthopedic nurse. Learn about education, licensure and certification requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Orthopedic Nurse Do?

Orthopedic nurses specialize in the field of medical care for those with musculoskeletal problems. Their patients may be affected by a number of medical conditions, including arthritis, broken bones or osteoporosis. They may work in hospitals or doctors' offices, or for agencies that provide health care to patients at home. Orthopedic nurses may assist surgeons during surgery, and they may also work in health education. They inform people about musculoskeletal disease prevention, and they also educate people about treatment options.

Degree Required Nursing diploma, associates or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Licensure or Certification Licensure as registered nurse (RN) is required by all states; board certification in orthopedic nursing may be preferred by employers
Key Responsibilities Observe, assess and monitor patients who have bone and muscular problems; administer medications and treatments; perform and analyze diagnostic testing; maintain patient records
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (2015) $67,490 for all registered nurses*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is an Orthopedic Nurse?

You could play a number of roles as an orthopedic nurse, including staff nurse, supervisor, researcher or nurse manager. You might work in the designated orthopedic unit of a hospital or an operating room. Positions for orthopedic nurses may also be found in an emergency department, pediatric orthopedic unit, trauma unit or gerontology unit.

What Should I Study?

You will need to complete a formal nursing program to become an orthopedic nurse. Most nursing programs result in an associate's degree or bachelor's degree, but you can also find diploma programs offered by hospitals. A bachelor's degree program may have some advantages over associates' degree and diploma programs, such as training in communication and leadership skills.

In a bachelor's degree program, you would build your knowledge of counseling, disease prevention, health promotion, healthcare education and rehabilitation. You would learn to make confident decisions, lead healthcare teams, provide nursing care and work with other medical professionals. You can also find graduate level nursing programs that provide the option of concentrating in orthopedic nursing. These programs can prepare you to identify musculoskeletal conditions, manage the health of patients and provide counseling.

What Is Licensure and Certification Like?

To get your nursing license, you would have to take the National Counsel Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). You should consult your state's board of nursing to find out state-specific requirements.

You can become certified by the Orthopedic Nursing Certification Board, which awards the only credential that recognizes proficiency in orthopedic nursing. By passing the certification exam and earning the Orthopedic Nurse Certified (ONC) credential, you can demonstrate to employers and coworkers that you are dedicated to keeping up with developments in the field and able to provide quality care. You must renew your certification every five years by retaking the certification exam or taking continuing education courses.

What Might I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2015 that the median annual wage for registered nurses, including those who worked in orthopedics, was $67,490. Your salary may vary based on your place of employment. For example, the BLS noted that RNs who worked for the federal government earned an average of $82,620, while those who worked for nursing care facilities earned $63,490.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Dental hygienists and health educators perform some duties that are very similar to the duties of an orthopedic nurse. Dental hygienists help identify some diseases such as gingivitis, are involved in dental care, and may clean a patient's teeth. They are also involved in educating patients. They focus on informing patients about how to prevent dental issues. Dental hygienists need an associate's degree.

Health educators, who need a bachelor's degree, focus on informing members of the community about how to live a healthy life. They may create programs and provide information to community members. This information is intended to help people live a healthy life. They may also teach people about health conditions they have and help them with strategies to manage their condition.

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