All About the Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner-Certified (ONP-C) Credential

What is Orthopedic Nursing?

According to the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON) the role of the orthopedic nurse is “to advance musculoskeletal healthcare by promoting excellence in orthopaedic research, education and nursing practice.”1 Orthopedic nurses may be LPNs, RNs, nurse practitioners, or clinical nurse specialists, who practice in a wide variety of professional positions and clinical settings.

What is the Benefit of Certification as an Orthopedic Nurse?

According to the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, credentialing of orthopaedic nurses “indicates orthopedic proficiency within the specialty and is the only credential that documents expertise in the practice of orthopaedic nursing.”2 Credentialing is recognized as a mark of excellence because:

  • Certification shows that you are committed to lifelong learning and that you have a high level of knowledge that contributes to effective patient care and safety.
  • Certified nurses have increased confidence as excellence practitioners.
  • Employers and patients recognize the value of certified nurses and demand highly trained nursing staff.
  • Certification will continue to become more important among hospitals seeking MagnetTM designation.
  • The need for certified nurses specifically trained in orthopaedics is growing as the general population ages and requires more health care services.

What is an ONP-C?

The ONP-C credential consists of a certification examination administrated by the Orthopaedic Nursing Certification Board.

How Many Nurse Practitioners Hold the ONP-C Credential?

The total number of current ONP-Cs is not readily available, but is likely less than 100. Between 2009 and 2012, only 41 of 73 nurse practitioners passed the ONP-C exam.

Statistics on ONP-Cs:

2006 (recertified in 2012):3
2007–2008 (estimated):4
Total ONP-Cs (estimated):

What Does the ONP-C Exam Cover?

The ONP-C certification exam covers degenerative disorders, orthopedic trauma, sports injuries, inflammatory disorders, metabolic bone disorders, pediatrics, congenital disorders, musculoskeletal tumors, neuromuscular conditions, and professional capacities (clinician, educator, researcher).

1 Accessed July 20, 2013.

2 Accessed July 20, 2013.

3 The first recertification for the original ONP-Cs from 2006 was in 2012, and 26 of 41 examinees recertified as either ONP-C or OCNS-C. Since this statistic accounts for two groups of advanced practitioners (orthopedic clinical nurse specialists and orthopedic nurse practitioners), the actual number of ONP-C is likely less than 26. Source: Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board . Accessed July 20, 2013.

4 Between 2009 and 2012, only 41 out of 73 nurse practitioners passed the examination (approximately 10 per year). The statistics for 2007–2008 are not posted on the ONCB website. Based on the 2009–2012 average of 10 new ONP-Cs/year, there would be 20 additional ONP-Cs for 200–2008. Source: Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board. Accessed July 20, 2013.

A link to the recommended textbooks for exam preparation can be found on the ONCB website (

What is Required for ONP-C Recertification?

ONP-C Recertification occurs every 5 years and requires the following:

  • 1500 hours practice as an NP during the previous 5 years, plus
  • 125 contact hours of education (minimum 100 hours in clinical orthopedics, and up to 25 hours in general nursing)