Professional nurse at the hospital bandaging the hand with a medical bandage for a woman patient

How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

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

Professional nurse at the hospital bandaging the hand with a medical bandage for a woman patient

As a Registered Nurse (RN), you have the opportunity to specialize in an area of healthcare that piques your interest and sparks your passion.

(Click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse (RN))

Every nursing specialty is different. They each have their own job responsibilities, patient groups, and unique work environments. Most of these specializations may also require specific academic qualifications and certifications.

This career guide will focus on the nurses who specialize in providing care to patients dealing with musculoskeletal issues, Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners (ONPs).

The orthopedic specialty is dedicated to treating patients with broken or fractured bones, injuries, or chronic conditions such as arthritis. The role of an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner centers on helping people manage their orthopedic injuries (or diseases), while educating their patients on how to treat and alleviate their symptoms.

(Click here to see our full list of the highest paying nursing jobs)

If you’re interested in helping people regain their strength and mobility, we hope this guide will inspire you to further explore this highly rewarding career opportunity. Continue reading to learn how to become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner, as well as their unique job responsibilities, salary*, and educational requirements.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Definition

What is an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNS) who provide care to patients dealing with musculoskeletal  injuries or diseases. They work alongside physicians to help patients recover from surgery, rehabilitate from injury, and return to full mobility.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Do?

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners help patients with musculoskeletal issues, including broken or fractured bones, osteoporosis, arthritis, joint replacements, and other injuries or diseases. They often assist orthopedic surgeons in the operating room and follow up with patients throughout their recovery to ensure patients are regaining their strength and range of motion.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners include:

  • Providing care for people who have musculoskeletal disorders, injuries, and degenerative conditions
  • Informing patients about their condition and medical history
  • Educating patients and their families regarding their treatment, while promoting healthier lifestyle habits
  • Assist Orthopedic Surgeons throughout surgery and follow up with patients after their operation
  • Create pain management schedules for patients while monitoring their medications for reactions and allergies
  • Conducting routine health assessments and physical examinations
  • Monitoring patients vital signs and monitoring patients throughout their recovery

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners Work?

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners can find work in various healthcare settings, including doctors’ offices, outpatient care clinics, and hospitals. Because of the versatile nature of their profession, Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners can also work in other settings, such as health agencies, assisted living centers, and rehabilitation centers.

Patient with a knee injury and the doctor with x-ray

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner involves extensive education and training. At a minimum, you must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree to become one.

While a master’s degree may seem strenuous, the hard work does pay off in the end. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners rank amongst the highest paying nursing jobs in the US.

Here are the steps required to become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner:

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

The first step to becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is earning your BSN degree (Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree). If you have no prior nursing education or experience, a BSN program will take you three to four years to complete.

If you already have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. These bridge programs are convenient and can be completed in as little as 20 months.

Accelerated nursing programs are also available to Licensed Vocational Nurses or Licensed Practical Nurses who already have their associate degree in vocational nursing (ASVN). These LVN-to-BSN pathways allow you to skip the first three semesters of the bachelor’s degree program.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

Upon earning your bachelor’s degree, the next step to becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is earning your nursing license. To do that, you must pass the NCLEX-RN or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. With the NCLEX, you’ll be certified to enter the workforce as a registered nurse (RN).

(Click here to read our NCLEX-RN Exam Review & Study Guide).

3. Earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

To become eligible for Orthopedic Nursing Certification (ONP-C) from the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB), you’ll have to earn a post-graduate degree from an accredited program. Most Masters in Nursing (MSN) programs take about 18 to 24 months to complete. By earning your MSN, you set yourself up for higher earning potential and a greater job outlook for the rest of your nursing career.

4. Gain Experience Working as a Nurse Practitioner

The ONP-C certification also requires a minimum of 2,000 hours of practice working as an APRN before the exam. Some of the hours earned in your MSN program may count towards that total.

5. Get Certified as an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

The final step to becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is passing the ONP-C certification exam provided by the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB). The ONC-P certification examination is a competency-based examination that provides a valid and reliable assessment of a nurse practitioner’s entry-level clinical knowledge and skills.  On the exam, there are 135 scored questions and 15 un-scored questions – 150 questions total.

Here is a breakdown of the test specifications provided by the ONCB:


  • Degenerative Disorders (53 questions)
  • Orthopedic Trauma (24 questions)
  • Sports Injuries (19 questions)
  • Inflammatory Disorders (11 questions)
  • Metabolic Bone Disorders (11 questions)
  • Congenital/Pediatric (8 questions)
  • Musculoskeletal Tumors (4 questions)
  • Neuromuscular (5 questions)


  • Clinician/Practitioner (85-95 questions)
  • Educator (13-23 questions)
  • Manager (3-9 questions)
  • Consultant (11-19 questions)
  • Researcher (3-9 questions)

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to, the average salary* of an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is about $113,000 per year or about $54 per hour.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner salaries in the top 10th percentile can reach as high as $127,000 or more.

What is the Job Outlook for Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners?

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report any specific data related to the job outlook of Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners.

However, they indicate that APRNs’ overall employment is expected to grow an astonishing 45% by 2029, which is much higher than the average of all occupations (4%). As the job outlook for APRNs continues to boom, you can expect similar growth in the demand for skilled Orthopedic Nurses.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Career

Are you ready to start your career as an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse bandaging leg of patient

There are a ton of different specialties you can pursue as a nurse. If you love helping patients recover from injury and restoring their mobility, then becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner could be a fantastic career choice for you!