Complete Guide to the Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Specialty

Last Updated/Verified: May 9, 2024

Definition: What Is an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

An Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is a specialty advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who works with patients dealing with musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. Orthopedic NPs play a vital role in diagnosing, treating, and managing a wide range of orthopedic conditions, working collaboratively with orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals. They focus on restoring patients’ musculoskeletal health and function through a combination of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative interventions.

Scope of Practice

The scope of practice for orthopedic nurse practitioners is broad and encompasses various aspects of orthopedic care. Orthopedic NPs are skilled in:

  • Conducting patient assessments
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Formulating treatment plans
  • Issuing conservative management
  • Assisting with physical therapy
  • Diagnosing medication
  • Assisting with surgical intervention
  • Assisting with pre-operative evaluations
  • Performing joint injections
  • Providing post-operative care, including wound management and rehabilitation

Skills & Abilities

Orthopedic nurse practitioners possess a unique skill set tailored to the complexities of musculoskeletal health. They excel in assessing orthopedic conditions, differentiating between musculoskeletal disorders, and recommending appropriate interventions based on patients’ needs. Orthopedic NPs are skilled in patient education, helping patients understand their conditions, treatment options, and self-care techniques. Their collaboration with orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists ensures coordinated care that optimizes patients’ outcomes.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Certification & Subspecialties

To become a certified orthopedic nurse practitioner, students typically need to complete a Master’s or doctoral-level nursing program, focusing their studies and clinical experiences on orthopedics. After obtaining an advanced nursing degree and holding an unencumbered nursing license, aspiring Orthopedic NPs can seek certification through organizations like the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB).

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Certification (ONP-C)Orthopedic Nurse Advanced Certification (ONC-A)
OrganizationOrthopedic Nurses Certification BoardOrthopedic Nurses Certification Board
Cost$345 – NAON/AANP/NOVA/CONA members

$460 – non-members
$345 – NAON/AANP/NOVA/CONA members

$460 – non-members
Number of Questions150150
Eligibility RequirementsThree years of practice with a current RN license; Master’s Degree in Nursing or higherThree years of practice with a current RN license; Master’s Degree in Nursing or higher; 2,500 hours of clinical practice

While orthopedics itself is a specialized field, Orthopedic NPs may choose to further specialize in areas such as:

  • Sports medicine
  • Joint replacement
  • Pediatric orthopedics
  • Orthopedic trauma

Becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a nurse practitioner who specializes in orthopedics involves a comprehensive educational journey. Aspiring Orthopedic NPs typically start with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, gain real-world experience as registered nurses, and then pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a focus on orthopedics. Advanced programs provide specialized knowledge in musculoskeletal assessment, diagnostic techniques, and orthopedic treatment modalities. After completing their nurse practitioner degree programs, individuals can seek certification in relevant areas and state licensure as a nurse practitioner specializing in orthopedics.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Employment Opportunities

Orthopedic nurse practitioners find employment opportunities in various healthcare settings that focus on musculoskeletal care. These settings include:

  • Orthopedic clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Orthopedic surgery centers
  • Sports medicine clinics
  • Rehabilitation facilities

Orthopedic NPs are essential members of orthopedic care teams, contributing to assessing, managing, and rehabilitating patients with orthopedic conditions. Their expertise in musculoskeletal health ensures patients receive comprehensive care that optimizes their mobility and quality of life.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Salaries

Salaries for orthopedic nurse practitioners can vary based on geographic location, years of experience, education level, and the specific healthcare setting or employer. As of 2023, the median annual wage for orthopedic nurse practitioners was $123,199. Given the specialized nature of orthopedic care and the importance of musculoskeletal health, Orthopedic NPs may command competitive salaries.