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What is an Orthopedic Nurse?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An orthopedic nurse is a health care worker who specializes in treating patients with musculoskeletal problems. He or she monitors patients' conditions, ensures their comfort, administers basic treatments, and assists physicians in making diagnoses. Many orthopedic nurses also work alongside surgeons to aid in delicate procedures. A skilled orthopedic nurse might work in one of many different settings, including a general hospital, specialty clinic, private practice, or nursing home facility.

Patients who suffer from chronic and acute musculoskeletal conditions depend on knowledgeable orthopedic nurses and doctors to help them recover. Nurses receive specialized education and training to learn about a range of disorders, including arthritis, osteoporosis, bone fractures, and congenital deformities. They understand the painful symptoms that can accompany such problems and do their best to keep patients as comfortable as possible.

There are several sub-specialties within orthopedic nursing. Some professionals at hospitals and clinics are responsible for assessing new patients and assisting doctors. They greet patients, check vital signs, record information about symptoms, and prepare examining rooms. An orthopedic nurse passes on information to doctors and helps them make accurate diagnoses. He or she might fit patients with casts or slings for acute injuries, or explain prescriptions and exercise routines for chronic problems. A nurse may specialize further to work exclusively with children, elderly patients, or individuals who suffer from a particular condition, such as cancer.

A talented orthopedic nurse may assist surgeons during operations. During procedures, the nurse monitors patients' vital signs and ensures the surgeon has the appropriate equipment at hand. Following surgery, he or she continues to care for patients to make sure they do not experience infections or further complications.

A person who wants to become an orthopedic nurse is usually required to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program and pass a written examination to earn registered nursing credentials. He or she receives hands-on training at a hospital, doctor's office, or clinic to gain practical experience and qualify to take an additional certification exam. In the United States, an individual can take a test administered by the Orthopaedic Nursing Certification Board (ONCB®) to earn his or orthopedic nurse credentials. Most other countries feature organizations similar to the ONCB® to provide specialized certification.

Many orthopedic nurses choose to pursue master's degrees in order to improve their credentials and their chances for career advancement. With a nurse practitioner degree, a professional can become a supervisor in a health-care setting, overseeing the work of other nurses and providing assistance with difficult cases. A nurse practitioner is also qualified to conduct research on different conditions and help set new hospital policies regarding treatment and care procedures.

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Discussion Comments
By anon297245 — On Oct 15, 2012

I am also very interested in training to be an orthopedic nurse, but would rather not do surgery. Is there any other kind of orthopedic nursing careers which deal primarily in things other than this, such as the after care of the patient?

By anon74736 — On Apr 03, 2010

i want to get into the medical field. i want to do stuff with sports injuries and not be dependent on just my say on something. i would rather not do surgery but if i had to i would. should i look deeper into being an orthopedic nurse? ~Allie

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