Healthcare professionals looking at X-ray

How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Responsibilities, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Two orthopedic nurses examining X-rays

An Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner (ONP) is one of the highest-paid nurses in the United States.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner ranks high on our list of prominent nursing careers for their specialization in musculoskeletal issues. Orthopedic Nurses assist physicians before, during, and after orthopedic surgeries. Typically, their patients suffer from fractured bones, arthritis, osteoporosis, or joint injuries.

(Click here to see our full list of highest paid nursing careers).

If you’re interested in musculoskeletal disorders or injuries, a career in Orthopedic Nursing can be highly rewarding, both professionally and financially.

Continue reading to learn everything you need to know on how to become an Orthopedic Nurse. Our comprehensive career guide will cover the duties, requirements, and benefits of this unique nursing specialization.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Definition

What Is an Orthopedic Nurse?

An Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who studies and treats a wide number of musculoskeletal diseases or injuries. The musculoskeletal system includes the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the human body.

The National Association of Orthopedic Nurses (NAON) defines the role of an Orthopedic Nurse as a professional who advances musculoskeletal healthcare by promoting excellence in orthopedic research, education, and nursing practice.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Requirements

How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse

The Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB) offers certification for aspiring ONPs. Requirements for certification include:

  1. Complete two years of experience as a Registered Nurse (RN) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
  2. Hold a current RN or APRN license
  3. Have a minimum of 1,000 hours of work experience as an RN in orthopedic nursing practice within the past three years

Becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Might Be a Good Fit for You If…

  • You like working with people
  • You are not squeamish around broken bones
  • You are resourceful, compassionate, and communicative
  • You have a detail-oriented nature
  • You have leadership and critical-thinking skills

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Duties & Responsibilities

What Does an Orthopedic Nurse Do?

Nurse bandaging a patient's hand

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners provide care for patients with numerous musculoskeletal issues. From prescribing medication for broken bones to analyzing X-rays, ONPs assist people who suffer from bone, joint, and muscle pain. As integral members of the orthopedic healthcare team, ONPs work closely with physicians, physical therapists, and other nurses to coordinate patient care, treatment, and consultation.

An Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner’s job description typically includes a variety of tasks. These include the following job responsibilities:

  • Treating patients with various musculoskeletal disorders or injuries
  • Evaluating patients in a clinical or hospital setting
  • Ordering lab tests, imaging, and other diagnostic procedures
  • Assisting during orthopedic surgeries and other treatments, such as setting broken bones
  • Performing joint injections, setting casts, or placing splints
  • Monitoring the healing or success of a patient’s treatment intervention
  • Collaborating with other members of the healthcare team (i.e., physical therapists, staff nurses, and nutritionists)

Where Do Orthopedic Nurses Work?

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners can work in a variety of healthcare settings. These may include the following environments:

  • Physicians’ offices
  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Dedicated orthopedic units
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Oncology departments

Orthopedic Nursing Hours

Like many other nursing specialties, the hours of an Orthopedic Nurse will depend on their employer and workplace setting. For example, ONPs who work in hospitals emergency departments may work weekends, night shifts, or be on call 24 hours a day. Orthopedic Nurses who work in clinics or nursing home facilities, however, can typically expect a more consistent schedule, working during standard business hours.

Orthopedic Nursing Uniform

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners typically wear scrubs to safely perform their job duties. Depending on their employer, some ONPs may also wear white lab coats during routine patient visits or consultations.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Education

What Training Is Required to Become an Orthopedic Nurse?

Step 1: To become an Orthopedic Nurse, you must first earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam to become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN).

Step 3: Successfully earn a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) and gain a few years of experience working as an RN or as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Group of medical students comparing notes

Orthopedic Nursing Programs

If you’d like to know about the core curriculum for ONP programs, you might want to look at nursing courses that fall under a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

According to NP Schools, most Orthopedic Nurses prepare for their specialty through on-the-job training and experience. However, some colleges do offer specialized courses in this field to those who have already earned their MSN degree.

The course curriculum for most MSN degree programs will usually include the following topics:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Advanced Practice Geriatric, Pediatric, Adult, and Newborn Nursing
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Research
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Public Health

Orthopedic Nursing School Cost

As stated earlier, you must earn a master’s degree to become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner.

Tuition costs for MSN-degree programs are usually listed on a per-credit-hour basis, ranging anywhere from $500 to $1,000 (or more) per credit.

Aspiring ONPs should also think about the following considerations before enrolling in an MSN program:

  • Tuition costs usually do not include extra expenses, such as books, program fees, and other mandatory fees
  • Many schools offer some form of financial aid
  • While you will likely accumulate student debt, the average ONP earns around $120,680 per year

How Long Does It Take to Become an Orthopedic Nurse?

It takes about 6 to 9 combined years of study and work experience to become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner.

The time it takes to earn a master’s degree from an accredited program depends on your starting point. For example:

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program may take about three to four years to complete
  • If you already have an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can complete an RN-to-BSN program in about two years
  • The MSN degree would likely require an additional two years of study

OPN candidates must also earn their RN license and work a few years as either an RN or APRN before applying for ONCB certification.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Certification

While certification is not required for this nursing specialty, it can lead to higher salaries and better career opportunities. In an increasingly competitive job market, certification can demonstrate your expertise and set you apart from other candidates.

The Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB) provides this Orthopedic Nursing certification, which is called the Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner (ONP-C). One of the many benefits of this certification includes the ability “to work anywhere,” from acute care and emergency rooms to primary and home healthcare settings.

To earn the ONP-C certification, you must pass a 150-question exam. Before you can take the exam, however, you must hold the following credentials:

  1. At least three years of experience as an RN or APRN
  2. A master’s degree in nursing (MSN) with preparation as a Nurse Practitioner
  3. At least 2,000 hours of advanced practice nursing work experience within the past three years and currently working as an Orthopedic NP
  4. Hold a current unrestricted RN license

Below are the current fees for the Orthopedic Nurse’s exam:

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

Note: There is a group discount for this exam. Five or more nurses testing from a facility will receive 15% off the exam fee when prepaid by the facility.

To learn more about the exam, fees, registration, and study resources, be sure to visit the ONCB website here.

Young medical professional using a tablet

Continuing Education Requirements

ONP certification will remain valid for up to five years if you participate in the requisite number of continuing education (CE) hours.

Recertification requirements include:

  • Current, unrestricted licensure as an RN/APRN
  • 1,500 hours of practice as a CNS or NP during the previous 5 years, plus
  • 100 contact hours of education (minimum 65 hours in clinical orthopedics, up to 35 hours in general nursing)

Current fees for APN re-certification by continuing education are as follows:

  • $285 NAON members, $400 non-members with LearningBuilder submission
  • $335 NAON members, $450 non-members with paper submission

In addition, ONP-Cs can also recertify by retaking the examination. See ONP-C Certification for more information.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Does an Orthopedic Nurse Make?

The average salary of an ONP is $120,680 per year or about $57.70 per hour (BLS).

The lowest 10% falls around $76,000, while the top 10% can earn over $134,000 annually.

It’s important to remember that an Orthopedic Nurse’s pay can be influenced by their employer, location, and their level of experience.

Highest Paying Industries for Orthopedic Nurses

Here is a list of occupational settings where some Nurse Practitioners might work, ranked in order of average salary:

Industry Average Salary
Outpatient care centers $128,190
Hospitals $128,190
Physician’s offices $121,280
Offices of other health practitioners $104,790
Educational services $102,680

Your city or state of residence can also affect your salary as an Orthopedic Nurse.

Highest Paying States for Orthopedic Nurses

Below are some of the highest-paying states for Orthopedic Nurses and other nurse practitioners, taken directly from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
California $72.99 $151,830
New Jersey $65.87 $137,010
New York $64.39 $133,940
Washington $62.90 $130,840
Massachusetts $62.28 $129,540

Highest Paying Cities for Orthopedic Nurses

The following table lists the highest-paying cities for Orthopedic Nurses and other nurse practitioners:

City Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
San Jose, CA $95.13 $197,870
Napa, CA $88.80 $184,700
Vallejo, CA $86.72 $180,380
San Francisco, CA $85.18 $177,160
Yuba City, CA $76.57 $159,260
San Luis Obispo, CA $73.70 $153,300
Sacramento, CA $73.58 $153,050
Santa Rosa, CA $73.15 $152,150
Santa Cruz, CA $72.25 $150,280
Fresno, CA $71.04 $147,760

Female medical professional examining X-rays

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

Orthopedic Nursing Jobs in the Years Ahead

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically report on the job outlook of Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners, they do state that employment of nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 40% by 2031.

This growth represents a much faster pace than the average for all other occupations. The BLS has also identified several factors for this predicted increase. They primarily include an increased emphasis on preventive care and a greater demand for healthcare services from the aging population.

Why You Should Pursue a Career as an Orthopedic Nurse

Orthopedic Nursing is a rewarding specialty in the healthcare field. In addition to being one of the top-paying nursing careers, this specialization enables you to relieve the pain of countless individuals who suffer from bone, muscle, and ligament diseases. You will have a direct impact on their care and potentially change their life for the better.

If you dream of becoming an Orthopedic Nurse but don’t know where to start, you can earn your BSN degree or enroll in one of several nursing programs at Unitek College.

It’s never too late to change your career path. Jobs for Nurse Practitioners are in high demand, and employers are constantly looking for committed, hard-working people to join their teams.