Orthopaedic nurses support patients and families through more than broken bones

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“Whether it is a small injury, or a very serious one, this orthopaedics team works well together to care for our outpatient population and make their experience the best that we possibly can,” says Amanda Grace a staff RN in the IWK Orthopaedics Clinic. “I love that about this clinic and the people I work with every day.”

The Orthopaedic Clinic at the IWK treats children and youth with injuries and diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system and with over 12,000 visits each year it is a very busy spot.

For the orthopaedic nurses that work there, there is no place they would rather be.

“I love the connections and relationships that I have with families,” says Jennifer Muirhead, an orthopaedic clinic nurse. “Many people think that orthopedics is just broken bones, but it is so much more than that. Many of our families have been coming to the clinic, and will continue to do so, for many years. It is a pleasure to watch these children grow and develop over the years.”

“We have the ability to follow many children from infancy throughout their growth and development,” says Karen Bartlett, Clinical Leader. “We see some children from an early age until mid to late teens.  The relationships we have with families and working with them in coping with the care their children require is very rewarding.”

Tricia Lane is a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Pediatric Orthopaedics. She follows any patient admitted to the inpatient units on the Orthopaedic Service and helps to manage their care.  She also sees patients independently in the orthopaedic clinic including patients with scoliosis and infant developmental dysplasia of hip.

“Many admissions are often unexpected and traumatic for children and their families and I hope I can help manage their care in a positive way, providing good communication and support to them,” says Lane. “I value the responsibility of providing care to a family whose baby has just been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. And I hope I am able to be a reassuring presence for a teenager as they struggle with their scoliosis.”

At the clinic both surgical and non-surgical methods are used in the treatment of infections, tumors, sports injuries, traumatic injuries and congenital disorders. The bones, joints and muscles of growing children and youth are treated using a multidisciplinary approach which includes observation of growth, physiotherapy, casting, bracing or splinting and surgery.

“In the ortho clinic I work with children and families being seen for any number of orthopedic concerns, from broken bones, toe walkers and knee issues, to hip dysplasia, in both infants and adolescents, and musculoskeletal tumors,” says Muirhead.  “Nurses in the clinic provide post op checks, teach about specific orthopaedic conditions and surgeries, provide parenting education, as well as any other nursing care that is required.”

While the onset of COVID-19 and a decrease in organized sports and outside play meant the clinic saw fewer common fractures the pandemic did challenge orthopaedic nurses to find other ways in which to connect with their patients.

“The pandemic certainly had its challenges, but it did teach me that we could adapt,” says Muirhead. “In a very short time, we adjusted the way we do things to include significantly more opportunities for virtual care.”

One thing that remained the same throughout the pandemic was the steadfast dedication IWK orthopaedic nurses have for their patients.

“I get to work with so many different team members and patients of all ages and with many different orthopedic issues,” says Lane.  “And it is very rewarding to be part of a patient’s recovery. I love my job!”

“From the time I was in nursing school, I knew I wanted to work at the IWK,” says Muirhead. “Over my years here, I have taken short leaves for other opportunities but always end up back in ortho.”

“I have worked at the IWK since graduating from Dal in 1999 and love working with and taking care of children and their families,” says Grace. “That is why I am here and why I will always be here.”

International Orthopaedic Nurses Week begins on October 26 and ends on October 30, which is also International Orthopaedic Nurses Day. Orthopaedic Nurses are celebrating with colleagues around the world using the hashtag #IAmAnOrthoNurse.