what is an orthopaedic nurse?

An orthopaedic nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who specialises in treating musculoskeletal conditions. Your job is to care for patients with issues related to bones. That means you work with patients recovering from orthopaedic surgeries, broken bones, and long-term orthopaedic conditions. Some musculoskeletal conditions overlap with trauma, which means you may be expected to care for patients with head injuries and wounds.

Your responsibilities vary depending on the healthcare facility you work for, but generally, you handle patient assessment, education, advocacy, and care coordination. If you work as an in-patient nurse, you focus on post-operative care, like pain management and changing wound dressings. When the facility only provides outpatient care, you assist patients with mobility issues, such as changing braces and other assistive devices.

Orthopaedic nurses work in diverse settings. You can work in hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities. Alternatively, work in rehabilitation centres and long-term care facilities for patients with musculoskeletal issues. As an orthopaedic nurse, you require extensive knowledge of the human anatomy and the musculoskeletal system. Aside from technical knowledge, you rely on your critical thinking skills, patience and resilience to work closely with patients.

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average orthopaedic nurse salary

The average remuneration package for an orthopaedic nurse is $82,500 per year. In an entry-level position, you start with a salary of $79,000 annually. As you improve your experience and competency, you are likely to take home a higher salary of $108,000 per year.

how to increase your earnings as an orthopaedic nurse

Your remuneration package is slightly higher if you have additional qualifications or experience. If you have several years of experience treating patients, your exposure boosts your earnings. Improve your work experience by volunteering or getting entry-level orthopaedic nursing roles to enhance your knowledge of the musculoskeletal system.

Working in public sector healthcare systems also reduces your remuneration package despite the significant benefits. Private clinics and specialised rehabilitation centres are likely to pay more compared to public sector facilities. The size of the hospital you work for could also impact your earnings. When you work in a small clinic, you get a lower remuneration package due to the scope of your responsibilities. In large hospitals, you handle numerous patients, and the complexity of your role increases your earnings.

Want to know what you will earn as an orthopaedic nurse? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.


types of orthopaedic nurses

In a hospital setting, you will find numerous subtypes of orthopaedic nurses. For instance, an orthopaedic staff nurse supports patients through pre-operative and post-operative care. As an orthopaedic staff nurse, you are a bedside nurse who handles patients’ immediate needs and assesses the risks of complications. You can also specialise as an orthopaedic surgical nurse to assist in operating rooms. Your extensive knowledge of musculoskeletal systems is useful during operations and post-surgical care.

Another area of specialisation is paediatrics, where you work with children with orthopaedic issues. Your job is to reconstruct congenital musculoskeletal anomalies and treat various orthopaedic conditions. In sports medicine, you treat sports-related injuries, rehabilitate injured athletes and guide patients through physical therapy.

working female in a hospital
working female in a hospital

working as an orthopaedic nurse

If you are interested in working as an orthopaedic nurse, check out the duties, responsibilities, work schedules and career opportunities in the role.


education and skills

If you want to become an orthopaedic nurse, complete the necessary qualifications for becoming a registered nurse. Pursue a bachelor of nursing to meet the standards of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). You should also register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and renew your nursing licence annually. When you have one to two years of experience in nursing, pursue a postgraduate certification to become an orthopaedic nurse.

If you want to progress in your career, join the Australian Orthopaedic Association or the Orthopaedic Nurses Association of Western Australia for professional development. After you've gained extensive experience, you can join the Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

orthopaedic nurse skills and competencies

Some of the skills and qualities to excel as an orthopaedic nurse include:

  • clinical skills: while your focus is on musculoskeletal issues, you also require general clinical skills. For instance, you should understand basic procedures like taking vital measurements, including blood pressure, pulse rate and weight. Your clinical skills also help you insert IVs, take blood samples and prepare patients for surgical procedures.
  • ability to stay calm: as an orthopaedic nurse, you sometimes work in high-stress environments, especially during emergencies. Your ability to maintain composure and stay calm in stressful situations helps you provide the best care to patients.
  • interpersonal skills: as an orthopaedic nurse, you work with various health professionals to handle patients' conditions. Your interpersonal skills help you communicate calmly, show compassion and be empathetic to patients’ needs. You also collaborate well with other nurses to promote patient care.
  • physical stamina: as an orthopaedic nurse, you assist patients with mobility restrictions post-surgery to ensure they are comfortable. You require physical strength to assist patients in wheelchairs and guide them through various therapies. Physical stamina also helps you maintain your energy and focus throughout your shift.
  • empathy: as an orthopaedic nurse, it is important to show empathy to patients and their families. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes helps you understand their condition and provide better care.

FAQs about working as an orthopaedic nurse

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of an orthopaedic nurse.

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