• 08 September 2021
  • 7 min read

What Is An Orthopaedic Nurse?

  • Jonathan Horn
    Registered Adult Nurse
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
    • Mat Martin
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Shan Liu
  • 1
  • 722
“Orthopaedic Nurses have skills and knowledge that General Registered Nurses don’t have, so provide higher quality and more timely care.”

Jonathan Horn gives us a comprehensive look at Orthopaedic Nursing. From the job description itself, to what you can expect from a day on the job, this article contains all the information you need to know.

Topics covered in this article

Introduction

What Does An Orthopaedic Nurse Do?

How Does Orthopaedic Nursing Work?

Why Is Orthopaedic Nursing Important?

What Kind Of Symptoms Do Orthopaedic Nurses Treat

What Are The Main Duties Of An Orthopaedic Nurse?

Which Other Healthcare Staff Are Involved In The Care Of Someone Being Treated In The Orthopaedic Setting?

Where Does The Orthopaedic Nurse Fit In The Process Of Patient Care?

What Are The Kinds Of Different Settings And Places Of Work Orthopaedic Nurses Work In?

What Are The Typical Orthopaedic Roles In The NHS?

What Are The Career Opportunities In Orthopaedic Nursing?

A Day In The Life Of An Orthopaedic Nurse

Introduction

An Orthopaedic Nurse is someone who generally cares for those with musculoskeletal diseases, bone, or limb injuries.

However, as Orthopaedics is often run parallel to trauma, it Is not uncommon for Orthopaedic Nurses to look after head injuries or infected wounds.

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What Does An Orthopaedic Nurse Do?

An Orthopaedic Nurse is responsible for ensuring that patients are appropriately cared for pre- and post-operatively after surgery.

They are pivotal part in trying to get patients back to their baseline prior to admission. Orthopaedic Nurses are responsible for early identification post-surgery, ranging from site infections, sepsis, and compartment syndrome.

How Does Orthopaedic Nursing Work?

Orthopaedic Nursing has two main parts, elective and unscheduled surgery. So, elective surgery is where a limb replacement such as hip or knee replacement has been identified through regular appointments and the need for surgery has been determined to help the individual’s quality of life.

Then there are those patients who experience and unexpected injury such as a broken hip perhaps while out walking.

They will likely come into A & E be clerked, admitted to an Orthopaedic ward, and likely receive surgery within a 48-hour period.

Why Is Orthopaedic Nursing Important?

Orthopaedic Nursing plays a huge role in hospitals to ensure that people with primarily bone injuries are appropriately cared for.

Orthopaedic Nurses have skills and knowledge that General Registered Nurses don’t have, so provide higher quality and more timely care.

What Kind Of Symptoms Do Orthopaedic Nurses Treat?

The main symptoms an Orthopaedic Nurse treats are normally linked to those who have had surgery.

This can range from administering oxygen for low oxygen saturations, fluid challenges for patients with low blood pressure/poor urine output or stat doses of medications for heart rate issues.

Blood transfusions can also be given for those with low blood pressures.

It is also important to look out for any signs or symptoms of sepsis or compartment syndrome in post-operative patients as these are time critical and potentially fatal.

What Are The Main Duties Of An Orthopaedic Nurse?

To checklist those patients awaiting to go to theatre which normally includes filling out a form with formatted questions helping to identify and potential hazards for the surgeons.

Post-operatively to ensure that patients are getting normal sensation to the body part which has been operated on.

Also ensuring routine observations are completed regularly and there are no concerning signs.

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Orthopaedic Nurses are also involved in ensuring that pain management is good and that necessary specialist nurses are involved should this become an issue.

Also, more specialist jobs such as skin traction and pin site dressing (Ex-Fix) are carried out.

Intravenous medications being administered at correct times and management of CVAD devices, epidurals and PCA’s are regular with orthopaedic nursing.

Which Other Healthcare Staff Are Involved In The Care Of Someone Being Treated In The Orthopaedic Setting?

Normally a Consultant/Surgeon will be involved to determine the best course of treatment for the individual.

A Microbiologist will be required in those patients with infections to determine the best antibiotics and duration of treatment.

A plaster technician to apply casts, splint or braces that may be required. Therapy team which includes occupational therapist and physiotherapist to enable the patient to move the effected injury appropriately and to discuss the potential problems which may need to be addressed for the individual to return to their normal place of living.

Sometimes a fracture liaison nurse may be needed to determine if the individual needs more input such as medication for their bones.

Where Does The Orthopaedic Nurse Fit In The Process Of Patient Care?

The Orthopaedic Nurse is involved in the process from start to finish as mentioned previously they admit and care for the individuals from the front door to the exit.

They are pivotal in relaying information back to all the other healthcare staff into making the decisions which can sometimes be discussed in multi-disciplinary meetings.

What Are The Kinds Of Different Settings And Places Of Work Orthopaedic Nurses Work In?

Orthopaedic Nurses can work in departments such as A & E, Outpatients, Theatre, Trauma & Orthopaedics in Hospitals.

You may also work in clinics looking a Post-Operative wound – redressing, removing sutures or clips.

What Are The Typical Orthopaedic Roles In The NHS?

The roles within the NHS include Orthopaedic Ward Staff nurse which I work as, Orthopaedic Scrub Nurse, Recovery Nurse, Fracture Liaison Nurse and Advanced Nurse Practitioner in trauma and orthopaedics.

What Are The Career Opportunities In Orthopaedic Nursing?

The two main Orthopaedic Nursing opportunities I am aware of in advanced roles are fraction liaison nurse and advanced Nurse Practitioners.

Both roles require experience and further training such as nurse prescribing, and advanced care management courses often study at university at either master’s level or higher.

A Day In The Life Of An Orthopaedic Nurse

As with all Nursing jobs, each day varies but below is a rough outline as a general day in what an orthopaedic nurse would do:

07.00 – 07.30 Handover from night staff.

07.30 – 08.15 Finish morning medications and give patients breakfast.

08.15 – 10.30 prepare patients for theatre by completing checklists, administering IVIs, and delivering any pre-operative medications.

Also wash any other patients on ward ready for physiotherapy.

10.30 – 12.00 Ensuring clinical observations have been taken on all patients and that pressure areas have been checked and documented.

12.00 – 13.00 Lunchtime medications are administered, and lunches handed out to the patients.

13.00 – 17.00 Wound dressings changed, specialist jobs such as skin traction, pin sites etc are undertaken.

Also checking patients pressure areas where relevant.

17.00 – 18.30 Evening medications and evening meals are given to patients.

18.30 – 19.30 Patients settled for the night, ensuring all paperwork is up to date and that nurses are prepared for handing over to night staff.

Outside of this schedule you must be prepared to undertake venepuncture and canulation when required.

Patients can return from surgery anytime during the shift, so you must be ready to perform the previously mentioned skills and tasks.

Also working on a trauma and orthopaedic ward there are constant admissions and discharges throughout the day.

As an Orthopaedic Nurse you need the ability to be flexible and adapt to fast moving situations and be able to think on your feet.

I often say that no two days are the same and that you need to have a wide knowledge base to survive in this field.

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About the author

  • Jonathan Horn
    Registered Adult Nurse

I qualified as an Adult nurse in September 2018 and took a job to work as a Trauma & Orthopaedic Nurse in the East of England. In August 2020 I left this role and went to the private sector briefly, but this did not work out. I am now currently working for NHS Professionals as a Registered Nurse in the East of England gaining experience around different specialties but can often be found on the Orthopaedic wards.

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  • Jonathan Horn
    Registered Adult Nurse

About the author

  • Jonathan Horn
    Registered Adult Nurse

I qualified as an Adult nurse in September 2018 and took a job to work as a Trauma & Orthopaedic Nurse in the East of England. In August 2020 I left this role and went to the private sector briefly, but this did not work out. I am now currently working for NHS Professionals as a Registered Nurse in the East of England gaining experience around different specialties but can often be found on the Orthopaedic wards.

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    • Suzanne Loveridge 10 days ago
      Suzanne Loveridge
    • Suzanne Loveridge
      10 days ago

      I qualified as a registered nurse in 1981, I staffed on a DGH trauma/elective orthopaedic surgery ward in Kings Lynn. ... read more