Orthopedic Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
It is estimated that more than 126.6 million Americans (one in two adults) suffer from some type of musculoskeletal problem, and in 2010 a reported 18% of health care visits were for the care and treatment of orthopedic problems. Whether patients are suffering from arthritis, a sprain, a fracture or a bone tumor, many will require treatment from orthopedic healthcare professionals who have the expertise necessary to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate them.
The long-acknowledged nursing shortage that has affected the nation has made nurses in all specialities increasingly valuable. This will be particularly true of orthopedic nurses as the population ages and places greater demands on facilities providing care. Because of this, orthopedic travel nurses are in demand, which makes it likely that orthopedic travel nurse salaries, perks, and benefits will continue to climb.
What is an Orthopedic Nurse?
Orthopedic nurses treat patients of all ages who are suffering from either acute or chronic musculoskeletal conditions. They assist physicians through the entire continuum of care, interviewing patients, making diagnoses, monitoring patient conditions, and administering treatment. The conditions that they manage are diverse and include osteoporosis and arthritis, as well as bone fractures, genetic malformations, and many other anomalies and injuries.
Orthopedic nurses are trained on a wide variety of specialized skills that are essential to their work, including master casting, continuous passive motion therapy, and monitoring neurovascular status. Some provide assistance to orthopedic surgeons during surgical procedures.
Musculoskeletal conditions can begin in infancy, so orthopedic nurses are frequently needed to provide infant and pediatric care. Other issues are caused or exacerbated by age, and these are expected to increase in prevalence as the population ages. Musculoskeletal problems are the leading contributor to disability worldwide, causing both pain and loss of mobility.
Orthopedic nurses help patients with orthopedic issues to manage their conditions, to heal, and to regain strength and mobility.
Working with these patients requires patience and sensitivity to pain. Orthopedic nurses need to understand the different ways that patients react to and respond to their issues, and as a result they need to be able to apply critical thinking and reasoning skills. Orthopedic nurses must also be meticulous in their attention to detail, as each patient’s needs will require a specific care protocol.
The fact that musculoskeletal conditions are so varied and prevalent means that orthopedic nurses experience few limitations on the work settings available to them. They can work with geriatric and pediatric populations; for schools and sports teams; in acute care hospital and orthopedic specialty practices; in nursing homes, pain centers, and home care.
Orthopedic Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications and Professional Groups
Orthopedic nurses are specially trained to provide care for patients suffering from conditions of the musculoskeletal system. The help patients with the management of orthopedic issues as well as assess and diagnose orthopedic conditions in a variety of healthcare environments.
Most orthopedic nurses are:
- Are registered nurses who have earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree (BSN) in nursing. (RNs with an Associate’s Degree in nursing may also be eligible for orthopedic positions, though many facilities prefer a BSN.)
- Are Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners (ONC) who have earned their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and have pursued special certifications in orthopedic medicine.
To become a certified orthopedic nurse by the Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board, you must hold a full and unrestricted license as an RN, have a minimum of two years’ work experience as an RN, and 1,000 hours in orthopedic nursing care. There are three different certifications available:
Orthopedic nurses may also benefit from membership in the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON), which was “designed to promote the highest standards of nursing practice by educating its practitioners, promoting research, and encouraging effective communication between orthopaedic nurses and other groups with similar interests.”
Orthopedic Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential
The advanced training and extensive experience that orthopedic nurses invest in their education is well worth it — ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual salary for an orthopedic nurse is currently $96,259. That compensation can go as high as $127,000 depending upon the individual orthopedic nurse’s years of experience, what area of the country they work, and the type of facility seeking to fill the position.
The average salary for an orthopedic nurse is $96,259.
Any nursing specialization provides the opportunity to earn a higher salary and job growth, and orthopedic nurses are no exception. The demand for orthopedic nurses is expected to grow significantly. This is partially a result of the nursing shortage which is affecting both specialty nurses and those who serve the general patient population, and partially a result of the aging population. This population requires an increasing number of orthopedic procedures and orthopedic treatments.
Top Paying Cities for Orthopedic Nurses in 2021
According to ZipRecruiter, here are the best paying cities for orthopedic nurses in 2021:
- Richmond, CA: $117,781 per year
- Stamford, CT: $114,690 per year
- Bellevue, WA: $114,431 per year
- Lakes, AK: $110,417 per year
- San Francisco, CA: $110,391 per year
The Pros and Cons of Being an Orthopedic Nurse
Pros of Orthopedic Nursing
- Patients are motivated to improve and generally get better, which means nurses work collaboratively and establish rapport
- Ability to work in a wide variety of healthcare settings
- Orthopedic nurses are often able to work predictable standard office hours
Cons of Orthopedic Nursing
- Patients occasionally die unexpectedly
- Patients who are elderly can be confused following procedures
- Staff shortages lead to heavy workloads
Travel Nursing as an Orthopedic Nurse
The aging population has increased the demand for orthopedic nurse professionals who are skilled in managing and administering care for joint replacement patients and degenerative diseases. This has increased the demand for orthopedic travel nurses too.
Among the benefits that orthopedic travel nurses enjoy is working with patient populations of their choice in facilities and work settings of all types — from pediatric patients to teen athletes to home care patients of all ages, and more.
Because the average travel nurse assignment is 13 to 26 weeks, orthopedic travel nurses are able to change their work environment on a regular basis, meet new people, learn new skills, and see new places, all while earning a higher salary than a full-time staff nurse.