The world of healthcare is filled with many specializations and opportunities, but if you're passionate about musculoskeletal health, enjoy the idea of working with a diverse group of patients, and have an affinity for both clinical and surgical settings, consider becoming an orthopedic nurse practitioner (NP).
If you're ready to journey into a rewarding career that blends patient care, advanced medical knowledge, and the opportunity to impact your patients' lives, keep reading to learn more about the job description, responsibilities, salary expectations, and steps to becoming an orthopedic NP.
Orthopedic NP Job Description
Orthopedic NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who deliver care to patients experiencing musculoskeletal problems across the lifespan. Some examples of common musculoskeletal problems include osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, fractures, and tendon or ligament injuries.
The orthopedic NP's duties include obtaining a history from the patient and formulating a list of differentials to assess and diagnose the patient and determine the next steps. Orthopedic NPs order diagnostic tests as indicated, interpret the tests, and initiate treatment. They will also follow up with the patient to ensure they improve and the appropriate treatment plan is in place.
Depending on where they work, orthopedic NPs may assist with orthopedic surgery and care for the patient pre-operatively and post-operatively. It is not uncommon for orthopedic NPs to round on their patients while in the hospital, which is usually done alongside the orthopedic surgeon.
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Orthopedic NPs can work in inpatient and outpatient settings, including private practices or large organizations. They have a unique opportunity to see patients in the clinic and assist with surgery and round on patients in the hospital. They may also work in rehabilitation facilities and for sports medicine practices. These settings allow the orthopedic NP to care for the patient from the time of injury or pain until they are discharged.
The typical schedule for an orthopedic NP is a variable, depending on their work setting. Those working in inpatient and outpatient settings may work four 10-hour days or five eight-hour days. They may also require to be on call for a few weekends and holidays yearly, but orthopedic NPs typically have most weekends and holidays off.
The benefits of becoming an orthopedic NP include the opportunity to become certified and increase competence and dedication to your career. There is also the opportunity to work in various settings, including in clinics, surgery, primary care centers, urgent care centers, and possibly rounding on the inpatients after surgery. This provides variety to the workweek and a schedule that many enjoy.
Orthopedic NP Responsibilities
The responsibilities of an Orthopedic NP include:
- Performing physical exams on patients to assess their condition and diagnose any health problems they may have
- Evaluating patient medical histories and identifying risk factors that might make surgery risky
- Providing preoperative instructions to patients regarding what they should do before their operation
- Prescribing medication or other treatment as needed to help patients recover from surgery
- Discussing surgical risks with patients and families so they are aware of possible complications
- Reviewing patient records and reports from other healthcare providers who have treated the patient previously
- Coordinating patient care with other members of the healthcare team, including physicians, surgeons, physical therapists, and other nurses
- Performing diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, bone scans, and electrocardiograms (EKGs)
- Supervising patients' recovery from surgery by providing them with instructions on how to care for themselves at home after surgery
The exact responsibilities of an orthopedic NP may vary depending on setting and experience.
Orthopedic NP Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average mean annual salary for NPs is $124,580. Unfortunately, the BLS doesn't specify particularly for orthopedics.
According to Payscale, the average orthopedic NP salary is $52.69 an hour, leading to an annual salary of $111,681 for the NP working 40 hours a week. This salary is an average and dependent on multiple factors such as the state and environment worked, hours worked, and overall experience.
ZipRecruiter reports that the highest-paying states for orthopedic NPs are:
- Washington: $164,119
- New York: $158,424
- Missouri: $149,809
- Hawaii: $146,500
- Idaho: $145704
How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
Several steps must be completed to become an orthopedic NP.
1. Complete a BSN
First, you must complete your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN), either in the form of a four-year program, or you can start with an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) and then complete an RN-BSN bridge program.
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN
After obtaining a BSN degree, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam before applying for your nursing license. Once you pass the NCLEX, you can apply for RN licensure in the state you practice. Once you obtain state licensure, you may work as an RN.
3. Attend and Complete an NP Program
You can apply for NP programs after passing your NCLEX-RN exam and completing your bachelor's degree, as experience is not always required to apply to graduate school. However, gaining experience as an RN, specifically as an orthopedic nurse, is recommended if you wish to become an orthopedic NP. The experience gained will help to increase your knowledge and confidence in delivering care to an orthopedic patient.
For nurses with a BSN, there are two main types of NP programs:
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It is essential to research each graduate school of interest and ensure that you have completed their prerequisites before applying.
4. Get Certified
After you graduate from your NP Program, you must sit for the board certification exam, which can be achieved through the Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board. After you pass the board certification exam, you can apply for licensure in the state you practice and start working as an orthopedic NP.
With an increasingly aging population suffering from arthritis, joint pain, back pain, or musculoskeletal pain, orthopedics is a booming specialty. With the ability to work in various settings such as inpatient, outpatient, surgery, and sports medicine, the opportunities are endless for the orthopedic NP.