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Orthopedic Nursing

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    Orthopedic nursing encompasses care of both the trauma and surgical patient. Patients of all ages and sizes require orthopedic care. From the infant who has a congenital issue, to the teen injured in a motor vehicle accident, to the elder who has elected to have a joint replacement. These patients require many different levels of care, from the acute setting, to short term rehab to long term rehab.

    Orthopedic Nursing

    "Orthopedic Nursing has its roots in Victorian England. The specialty's matriarch, Dame Agnes Hunt, was crippled from septic arthritis of her hip. She devoted her entire nursing career to improving the lives of crippled children and those injured by the ravages of war." (www.naon.org)

    Working Environment

    Orthopedic nurses work in a variety of settings:
    • Hospital acute units
    • Operating rooms - either in hospitals or the increasingly popular outpatient surgical centers.
    • Orthopedic private practices
    • Trauma units
    • Rehabilitation hospitals
    • Organizations that address congenital defects or pediatric trauma such as Easter Seals or other early intervention clinic
    • Long-term acute care rehab hospitals
    • Home care

    Duties and Responsibilities

    The duties and responsibilities will be as varied as the work environment.

    Hospital acute units - caring for patients who have orthopedic injuries or who have had orthopedic surgery. Advanced practice nurses also have a role in orthopedic care.

    Operating rooms - either in hospitals or the increasingly popular outpatient surgical centers. Nurses provide intra-operative care.

    Orthopedic private practices where nurses counsel patients contemplating joint replacement, educating post-trauma patients, and performing the usual clinic duties

    Trauma units - facilitating acute care for critically ill patients who might have multi-organ fractures/trauma

    Rehabilitation hospitals - after the acute phase of injury or surgery, rehab is a huge component of orthopedic care. Nurses do bedside care, coordinate care of physical and occupational therapists as well as ancillary personnel

    Organizations that address congenital defects or pediatric trauma such as Easter Seals or other early intervention clinic. Nurses provide pediatric orthopedic care here.

    Long-term acute care rehab hospitals. Some orthopedic injuries/surgeries require more care than the acute setting can provide so it is sometimes necessary to utilize a rehab hospital which can specialize in rehabilitation. Often orthopedic trauma patients sustain multiple injuries and require multiple modalities of therapy in order to improve to their fullest.

    Home care - orthopedic nurses go into homes to assess the environment, provide advice for safe transferring, bathing, cooking and overall living


    Orthopedic nurses can possess an associate degree, diploma or bachelors degree leading to the ability to take the NCLEX RN exam. Advanced practice nurses (APN) have at least a masters degree. APNs provide care and coordination of care for all types of orthopedic patients.

    Job Outlook

    Orthopedic nurses can fulfill many nursing roles in many varied environments. As healthcare continues to evolve, it will be very important for the orthopedic nurse to take advantage of continued education opportunities as well multiple experiences. This is how the orthopedic nurse empowers herself.


    allnurses.com has an Orthopedic Nursing forum. Some recent topics have included:

    The National Association of Orthopedic Nursing is the go-to website for all things ortho. They sponsor conferences, standards of practice, and research guidelines.

    Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board

    The International Collaboration of Orthopedic Nursing is an international consortium of nurses from around the world. They compare research studies, provide evidence based practices, and guidelines for the care of the orthopedic patient.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 9, '15
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