Patty Piasecki, NP, is an orthopaedic oncology nurse at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. In the past, she worked as an orthopaedic trauma nurse. In that position, she says, “trauma” made it sound like she worked in the TV show ER, but in reality, it means longer hospitalizations for the patients, stays in rehab, follow-up appointments, numerous radiographic tests, and decisions about patients returning to work.

When she moved to orthopaedic oncology, though, Piasecki says that her previous experience had prepared her for more complex patients. In ortho, she admits, patients “can have multiple fractures in multiple sites as well as other injuries such as head and abdomen. It is challenging to triage the injuries. The volume of patients that need to be in ICU is huge too, so you have to always be on alert for new problems.”

As for what was the most difficult thing about working as an ortho trauma nurse, “Needing to tell a patient that they need an amputation after they fought for two years to keep the limb,” admits Piasecki.

The biggest challenge of the job was when her patients were never able to return to work. There were many rewards, though. Piasecki says that the greatest rewards were when patients were able to completely heal and get on with their lives and do things like get married, have children, or even ride their motorcycles again.

If you’re thinking about becoming an ortho trauma nurse, Piasecki suggests that you get a certification in orthopaedic nursing and working in a hospital with an orthopaedic trauma surgeon, an emergency department, or an ICU or surgical unit.

Michele Wojciechowski

Michele Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.

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