Explore a career as an orthopaedic nurse practitioner

July 29, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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An orthopaedic nurse practitioner (ONP) is an advanced nursing certification that can be acquired after several years of experience. The position brings greater responsibilities along with a higher pay.  

Orthopaedic problems and musculoskeletal conditions are among the most prevalent causes of disability among the middle aged and the elderly. They are also one of the leading reasons that patients seek help from a primary care physician or specialist. Because these problems are so prevalent everywhere, orthopaedic nurse practitioners are in high demand. 

Waiting for ward rounds to begin! Duties Of An Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner

ONPs help alleviate musculoskeletal problems that affect the bones and the muscles thereby helping patients regain lost or impaired mobility. Some of the conditions they deal with include joint problems, arthritis, bone fractures, genetic issues and surgery. These specialists work in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, nursing homes or even on sports teams. A nurse with this certification has a wide range of diverse work opportunities from which to choose.

As an orthopaedic nurse practitioner, you will be working closely with orthopaedic physicians and surgeons. You would assist with the diagnosis, treatment and management of musculoskeletal problems. 

During the course of a day, you may work with patients across all ages suffering from diverse problems ranging from arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes to bone fractures, bone marrow disorders, joint displacement and more. 

You could choose to practice in general orthopaedics or any of its subspecialties including spine surgery, orthopaedic oncology, joint reconstruction, hand surgery, foot and ankle surgery or sports medicine.

Orthopaedic nurse practitioners have several diverse professional options available in a variety of settings. You could be employed in a hospital, clinical orthopaedic practice, long-term care facility, home health, academia or a research lab.

It’s not unusual for an orthopaedic nurse practitioner to take on the role of intermediary and regularly answer questions that patients are hesitant about asking their doctors. When there is bad news to be delivered by the primary physician, an ONP helps create an environment where the patients can learn to accommodate their acute or chronic orthopaedic issues.

Education & Training Requirements

To be able to practice as an ONP requires a combination of advanced education and training. Obtaining an ONP-C (Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner) certificate that qualifies you to practice, you first need to be certified as a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). This requires getting a Bachelor of Science degree, preferably in nursing. You must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination to be a certified RN or LPN.

As a registered or licensed practical nurse you need to put in 1,500 hours of advance practice before qualifying 

Depending on your post-graduate experience, you will need to put in about 1,500 to 2,500 hours of work in orthopaedics before obtaining your national certification that will allow you to practice as an orthopaedic nurse practitioner. 

Training typically involves at least one year of an intensive fellowship and hands-on patient care across multiple orthopaedic subspecialties. Most fellowship programs require candidates to already have an MA and some also prefer prior certification as an orthopaedic nurse.

ONP Certification

The test to be certified as an orthopaedic nurse practitioner is challenging. It is a 3-hour test with 150 multiple choice questions. The test covers vast topics ranging from inflammatory disorders, sports injuries and neuromuscular issues, to tumours, metabolic bone disorders, degenerative disorders, trauma and congenital diseases. 

The test also covers your ability to handle issues as an educator, clinician, researcher and manager.