Orthopaedics is a branch of medicine that focuses on the musculoskeletal system, which consists primarily of muscles and bones. Disorders, diseases, and injuries to this vital system can be painful and devastating. Many of the problems that affect this system also have an impact on a person’s mobility, or ability to move and get around.

Medical professionals that specialize in this field, including orthopaedic nurses, care for patients that are experiencing musculoskeletal problems.

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What is an Orthopaedic Nurse?
What do Orthopaedic Nurses Do?
Where do Orthopaedic Nurses Work?
How do I Become an Orthopaedic Nurse?

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What is an Orthopaedic Nurse?

An orthopaedic nurse is a nursing professional that cares for patients suffering from disorders, diseases, and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. As an orthopaedic nurse, you will need to have a very deep understanding of both the muscular system and skeletal system and how the work together as the musculoskeletal system.

The musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons in our bodies. Our bones are responsible for our bodies’ structure and support, as well as producing blood cells and storing nutrients. Striated muscles are comprised of fibrous tissue that expand and contract, which pulls on our bones producing movement. Tendons are tough strips of tissue that hold our muscles to our bones, and ligaments are the tough strips of tissue that hold bones to other bones.

Problems with the musculoskeletal system can include genetic abnormalities and deformations, diseases, and injuries. Some common musculoskeletal problems that orthopaedic nurses may see on an everyday basis may include arthritis, fractures, sprains, muscular dystrophy, temporomandibular joint disorder, and fibromyalgia.

The work of orthopaedic nurses and other orthopaedic professionals is very important. The problems that affect the musculoskeletal system more often than not affect movement and mobility. Orthopaedic professionals help patients deal with their medical problems and possibly regain normal mobility and range of motion.

Orthopaedic nurses typically work with patients of all ages. However, these nursing professionals can also choose to specialize in certain types of patients. Pediatric orthopaedic nurses, for instance, work primarily with children.

What do Orthopaedic Nurses Do?

Orthopaedic nurses help assess, diagnose, and treat patients suffering from various musculoskeletal problems.

Assessing and diagnosing musculoskeletal problems in patients often starts with a thorough physical examination. Orthopaedic nurses may also be required to examine a patient’s medical history and take x-rays.

Treatment for musculoskeletal problems will typically depend on the diagnosis. For instance, a bone fracture often needs to be immobilized for several weeks. Orthopaedic nurses will often be responsible for setting and casting fractures and breaks.

Some musculoskeletal problems, on the other hand, may require medication, such as pain killers and anti-inflammatories, or even surgery. Orthopaedic nurses will often help administer medication and educate patients on how to take their medications properly. They may also be called upon to assist during surgery as well as administer post-operative care.

Other treatment options for musculoskeletal problems often include physical therapy and exercise. Orthopaedic nurses may help patients regain some of their mobility and work to expand their range of motion. Because musculoskeletal problems are often so painful, orthopaedic nurses will also often find themselves helping patients manage their pain without the use of medications.

Where do Orthopaedic Nurses Work?

Orthopaedic nurses often work in private physicians’ offices, hospitals, and clinics. As an orthopaedic nurse, however, you may also be able to find employment in home care agencies and assisted living facilities, as well as rehabilitation and physical therapy centers.

How do I Become an Orthopaedic Nurse?

In order to become a certified orthopaedic nurse, you’ll first need to become a registered nurse. This entails earning a nursing degree and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Below is the educational path for an Orthopaedic Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

Certification is offered by the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board. To be eligible to sit for the certification examination, you will need at least two years of experience as a registered nurse, along with 1,000 hours of experience in orthopaedics.