National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses logoOrthopaedic nurses know that when problems with joints and muscles strike, they can impact the quality of life in a significant way. Nurses in this specialty are there to diagnose and treat patients who have conditions ranging from an injury needing a short-term recovery to longer, chronic conditions including osteoporosis.

This week, orthopaedic nurses around the world are celebrating a week devoted to highlighting their nursing specialty with Orthopaedic Nurses Week. From October 30 to November 2, nurses can use this extra attention to promote this career path and to help educate the larger public about what orthopaedic nurses do.

As nurses in this career know, the duties of an “ortho” nurse are varied. From where they practice–in physician’s offices, hospitals, surgical care or outpatient centers–to the conditions they treat–from joint-replacement preparation and recovery to surgery to repair broken bones–ortho nurses have many career pathways to choose from.

Ortho nurses work with patients across the lifespan and whether they are working more closely with pediatric patients or elite athletes, they find the focus is similar. Joint and muscle issues can cause patients to experience pain and discomfort, can interrupt their activities of daily living, and can require new ways to adapt to performing tasks. Ortho nurses are particularly adept at helping their patients recover as they can share best practices to help move recovery forward or tips on managing what could be symptoms of chronic disease.

Orthopaedic nurses must be experts in the skeletal and muscular system, so they know how a problem with one joint could have a widespread impact on other areas of the body. Nurses who are especially fascinated with these areas will find a natural fit for orthopaedic nursing and will find gaining experience will help them build on the foundation they received as nursing students. Professional ortho nurses will find excellent resources through the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses.

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The Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board offers three separate credentials for nurses who want to attain more expertise in their specialty. With the ONC®, OCNS-C®, and ONP-C®, nurses will achieve the most up-to-date knowledge and practice in musculoskeletal health. Certification in any specialty is a professional credential that signals to the public and to peers that a nurse is dedicated to gaining the top skills and knowledge related to a specific area of nursing. Ortho nurses work in a fast-paced environment and so continuing to stay current on the latest developments and guidelines around conditions, equipment, and practices will only help them provide the best patient care possible.

If ortho nursing interests you, spending some time shadowing or working on an ortho unit will offer an understanding of the day-to-day challenges and joys of this line of work.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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