Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner (ONC)
Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Role
An orthopedic nurse practitioner’s job description includes managing the care of patients who suffer from a range of musculoskeletal conditions. From prescribing medications for the pain of a broken bone to analyzing x-rays of a hip replacement, orthopedic nurse practitioners take care of patients with bone, joint and muscle problems from all populations. An orthopedic nurse practitioner is expected to conduct physical exams on such patients, take detailed patient histories, prescribe tests and treatments, and analyze those tests and treatments. Orthopedic nurse practitioners work closely with physicians and nursing staff to coordinate patients’ care from the time of injury to discharge. Orthopedic nurse practitioners can work in physicians’ offices, clinics and hospitals.
An orthopedic nurse practitioner’s salary is estimated at $70,000 per year, but that figure is dependent on experience, location, certification, and venue.
How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
There are several steps to becoming an orthopedic nurse practitioner (ONP). Prior education, certification and clinical practice are among the requirements for being accepted into an nurse practitioner program. Here is a step-by-step path you can take to become an orthopedic nurse practitioner.
- 1. Become a registered nurse. In order to apply to a nurse practitioner program, you must have completed a degree in registered nursing and be certified as a registered nurse in a U.S. state or territory. Passing the NCLEX-RN examination is required for certification as a registered nurse. Working one or two years before applying for a nurse practitioner program is highly recommended, and three years of working as an RN is required for certification as an ONP.
- 2. Apply to nurse practitioner programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These programs must be master’s, postgraduate or doctoral programs. More information on nurse practitioner programs and coursework requirements can be found below.
- 3. For a current ONC, 1,500 hours of advanced practice in the last 3 years are required. Without an ONC credential, 2,500 hours as a nurse practitioner in orthopedic nursing are required as well as current status as an orthopedic nurse.
- 4. Apply to take the ONP-C exam administered by the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB) to earn your orthopedic nurse practitioner certification. The exam tests knowledge of a variety of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries and the roles required of ONPs. Final transcripts and proof of education are required. More information about certification can be found at the bottom of this page.
- 5. Apply for state certification as an orthopedic nurse practitioner in the state where you wish to practice. Go to our state certification pages to find out what the requirements are and how to apply. Many applications can be submitted online.
- 6. Once you have earned your orthopedic nurse practitioner certification, certification must be renewed every five years. In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and may require additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours.
Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Programs
To become an orthopedic nurse practitioner, a student must complete a master’s-level nurse practitioner program that offers an orthopedics specialty. The coursework of the master’s program prepares an orthopedic nurse practitioner candidate to pass a certification exam administered by the American Nursing Credentialing Center. To be eligible to test, candidates must have a current registered nurse (RN) license, a post-graduate degree from an accredited adult nurse practitioner education program, and at least 500 supervised clinical hours. The certification examination will evaluate the student’s knowledge of advanced physiology, health assessment and pharmacology.
In addition to the required certification exam for nurse practitioners, some orthopedic nurse practitioners opt for national certification through the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board to obtain the ONP-C® (Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner – Certified) designation. This is a value-added credential which demonstrates specialty expertise. To sit for the exam, candidates must have a valid RN license, three years of experience as an RN, a master’s degree or higher in advanced nursing, have at least 2,500 hours of orthopedic nursing practice in the prior three years, and must currently be employed as a nurse practitioner in an orthopedic setting.
Programs that offer the area of concentration in orthopedics lead to either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a PhD. Admissions criteria will vary somewhat from university to university. In general, all nurse practitioner programs require students to have a current RN certification in the state they will be attending school (or at least be eligible for certification), and at least two years of relevant work experience in a clinical setting. Some universities and colleges may require specific course requirements in fields such as nursing or statistics and a minimum score on the GRE. Most universities require a 3.0 GPA. The curriculum typically includes lecture and clinical orthopedics training in areas such as emergency treatment of conditions and rehabilitation. Simulated events are typically part of the curriculum to give degree candidates hands-on experience.
For universities and colleges that do not specifically offer the subspecialty of orthopedics in their MSN program, prospective students should consult with school officials to determine the best course of study to obtain clinical experience in the orthopedic setting in order to sit for the national ONP-C certification (if this credential is desired).
Students who enroll in a full-time occupational health nurse practitioner program can expect to graduate in approximately two years, depending on how quickly the clinical hours can be completed. Alternatively, RNs who wish to earn the PhD instead of the MSN may attend classes and clinicals for an additional period of time, depending on the specific program requirements. Part-time options are traditionally available depending upon the college or university.
Online Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Programs
For working registered nurses who do not want to put their career on pause or uproot their lives to attend a far away on campus program, online nurse practitioner programs with an orthopedic concentration can be both a flexible and high quality option. When looking for an online nurse practitioner program, make sure that it is high quality, with interactive features such as live classes and excellent placement services that will help you get the most out of your education. Some universities offer online programs that are identical to what they offer on campus, allowing students to earn a degree from a university they know and whose reputation they trust, without having to move there. Nurse Practitioner online programs are growing in popularity and are a great way to become an orthopedic nurse practitioner.
Type of Certification: Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner – Certified (ONP-C)
Eligibility Requirements: Nurses must hold a valid RN license.
Certification Process: Nurses can complete the online application and apply via mail. Once they are deemed eligible to test, applicants can take the exam in March, May, August, and November. Further instructions come with the authorization to test.
Fees: $405 for non-members
Renewal Process: Certification is valid for five years. Recertification requires 100 contact hours and a current RN license.
Learn about other advanced practice nursing specialties.
State Nursing Certification Information