UNITED STATES—Sports-related injuries are common. Statistics reveal that there are over 3 million sports-related injuries annually. All these injuries need to be addressed, and this is where sports medicine nurses come in. While most people with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) consider becoming clinical nurse educators, public health nurses, nurse managers, or nurse consultants, pursuing a career in sports medicine is one of the most rewarding careers in healthcare.
A career in sports medicine combines the needs of athletes with the pressure that comes with the job. It is also rewarding in terms of compensation!
Those who have an MSN in nursing and are wondering if they should pursue a career in sports medicine can read on to find out more. This article explores in detail what sports medicine is, the educational requirements needed to obtain an MSN, and areas nurses can specialize in within sports medicine.
What is sports medicine and what does a sports medicine nurse do?
Sports medicine is a field of medicine that focuses on rehabilitating injuries to help restore optimal function. Some nurses work alongside sports-related teams, a few work in hospitals, and others are part of a private practice. Some nurses also work in educational institutions where they can access patient offices and training facilities.
This branch of medicine acts as an intermediary between a primary care doctor and an orthopedic surgeon. Nurses help address most sports injuries that don’t require surgery. Although people believe that sports medicine jobs only work with athletes, non-athletes also suffer injuries and need care.
Importantly, sports medicine isn’t a medical specialty. Most healthcare providers in sports medicine have specialties in other fields. Some specialize in emergency medicine, family medicine, and numerous other specialties. Sports medicine nurses also receive more training before specializing in this field.
A sports medicine nurse helps athletes prevent, manage, and recover from their injuries. These nurses have specialized skills and training in medicine and sports, which allows them to work with athletes, physicians, and coaches to develop personalized care plans. These nursing professionals commonly deal with dislocation, broken bones, muscle fatigue, lower back injury, tendonitis, strains, and more. They are also responsible for assessing an athlete’s physical condition, monitoring their progress, administering treatments, and educating them on injury prevention and management. Furthermore, sports medicine nurses provide athletes and their families with emotional support and act as an advocate for their overall health and wellbeing. These nursing professionals help injured patients recover and regain mobility. Sometimes, physicians and orthopedic surgeons require the nurses to help in the surgical process too.
What are the educational requirements to become a sports science nurse?
Sports medicine nursing is a growing career role in the healthcare industry, so the requirements for this position are also high. For Registered Nurses (RNs) looking to venture into a new field plus experienced nurses wondering if there are programs they can pursue to specialize in sports medicine, here is what they need to know.
Get a bachelor of science and a master’s degree in nursing
Nurses need to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to become an RN before they can be a sports medicine nurse. The course takes four years but could take longer if attending part-time classes. After getting a bachelor’s degree, nurses need to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Passing this exam allows them to practice as RNs in the US.
Some positions will also require a master’s degree in nursing. Fortunately, institutions like Wilkes University allow RNs to get their master’s in as little as two years by taking their online course. Wilkes’ BSN to MSN nursing programs enable students to earn a master’s in as little as two years. Their programs combine advanced clinical skills with evidence-based practice to ensure students obtain the key skills needed to succeed.
It is essential to obtain clinical experience for anyone planning to be a sports medicine nurse. Nurses can do this through an internship program, volunteering, or an exchange program. Educational institutions provide internships that help interns gain valuable experience and make critical connections that could land them a job. Alternatively, they can volunteer at local schools or colleges.
Earn other certifications
Getting a certified athletic trainer certification from the board gives nurses an edge when looking for a sports medicine nursing job. Other certifications like exercise physiology/rehabilitation, orthopedic nursing, kinesiology, and athletic training are also essential for standing out.
Obtain state licenses
After fulfilling the above steps, nurses also need to check with their state legislature to determine if they need to obtain a state license to get started in their career. The scope of responsibilities a sports medicine nurse will have in the role can also vary from state to state.
Why pursue a sports medicine nursing career with an MSN?
Having a master’s degree in nursing opens up several career paths. An individual can become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), nurse anesthetist, nurse manager, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and more. However, with an MSN, they can also pursue a career in sports medicine. Here’s why qualified nurses should consider a career in sports medicine.
Lots of flexibility
A sports medicine nurse can enjoy flexibility in terms of their workplace. They can work in orthopedic clinics, college athletics departments, community centers, and wellness centers for example. Additionally, they could open a private practice and treat patients there. Sports medicine nurses can choose to work full-time or part-time with different teams or patients.
Choosing the age group they want to work with makes this career so versatile for nurses. It allows them to personalize their career goals to find a job that matches their personality and makes them happy.
A rewarding career
Sports medicine nurses are in demand – active people, including athletes and other individuals, rely on them. Nurses specializing in sports medicine therefore have multiple career options in the healthcare industry. They can work in rehabilitation facilities, clinics, sports teams, private practice, and more. There are plenty of opportunities in the sports medicine field.
Excellent networking opportunities
Nurses looking for a career that will give them lots of networking opportunities should have sports medicine at the top of their list. These nurses get to interact and mingle with people from different walks of life, from trainers to coaches to athletes, and gain valuable contacts. Forming these relationships can help them grow further in their career and discover better opportunities.
Lots of challenging experiences
Nurses will excel at a career in sports medicine if they love challenging tasks. Each day will be different from the last, with something new to handle. These nurses never get bored of monotonous work compared to other nursing roles.
Opportunity for travel
Some sports medicine nursing jobs allow nurses to travel with teams as they play. This is an excellent way for nurses to travel and see different places as they get paid to do what they love.
Areas of specialization in sports medicine
A sports medicine nurse can specialize in numerous different areas.
Advanced education and training
Nurses with an MSN can opt to conduct health education programs. They can specialize in topics like mental health, nutrition, substance abuse, hygiene, maternal health, and more. Working as an educator and organizing seminars, workshops, and one-on-one interactions empowers athletes and other people to make informed decisions.
Sports medicine nurses also educate people on how to avoid accidents and injuries when playing sports or during a daily routine. This can be through different preventative measures like gradual training progressions, using proper techniques during sports activities, or preparing for a warm-up or a cool-down. Helping individuals understand the risks and mitigate them can prevent a lot of injuries and create a safety culture in the community.
Sports injury assessment and treatment
Most nurses with a master’s degree specializing in sports medicine will work alongside physical therapists, doctors, athletic trainers, and others to offer care to athletes of all skill levels and ages.
Nurses are responsible for assessing the athlete’s injuries, including the nature and severity of the injuries. After the evaluation, they also need to determine the next step. This could be sending the individual for a thorough physical examination or diagnostic tests with other care providers.
Once the assessment results are received, the next step is to provide treatment. Depending on the injury, treatment can be providing wound care or immobilizing the patient to prevent further pain or damage. These nurses can also administer medication after consulting with a physician on a treatment plan. Additionally, nurses can inject pain medication to reduce pain and inflammation, which is common with sports injuries. Sometimes, a nurse may inject corticosteroid injections to target inflamed areas. Some sports medicine nurses also assist in surgical procedures, especially when handling severe injuries. Surgical treatments can involve ligament reconstruction, fixing fractures, repairing cartilage, and more. Surgery aims to restore function and promote recovery.
Sports medicine nurses also guide the athletes and their families on injury prevention, nutrition, and overall health and wellness. MSN certified nurses have the necessary skills to educate athletes and prevent future injuries.
Rehabilitation and recovery
Another critical aspect of treatment is rehabilitation. Nurses with an MSN are also involved in the athlete’s rehabilitation process, which includes creating personalized exercise programs, monitoring their progress, and making adjustments to ensure a speedy recovery. Rehabilitation may include manual therapy, exercises, and functional training.
Physical therapy is also an essential component of sports injury treatment. Nurses work with physical therapists to develop individualized programs that address range of motion, functionality, and strength restoration.
In addition to developing personalized rehabilitation plans, sports medicine nurses also monitor the athlete’s progress. They assess the athletes regularly, modify their exercise, and change treatment plans to ensure they recover.
Recovering from sports-related injuries can be challenging for anyone, especially for athletes who rely on sports as a source of income. MSN certified nurse’s provide psychological and emotional support, helping athletes deal with anxiety during the rehabilitation stage.
Sports medicine nurses also act as a bridge between physical therapists, the medical team, and the athlete. When all teams are communicating and coordinating effectively, a quick recovery process is more likely for the athletes.
Health and wellness promotion
Nurses with an MSN not only focus on assessing injuries and providing treatment, but they also aim to promote overall health and wellness. Their unique skills and experiences prepare them to provide comprehensive care.
A sports medicine nurse can conduct comprehensive health assessments to identify possible risk factors and areas that need improvement in the athlete’s overall wellbeing. Performing these health assessments helps to address any underlying health concerns.
MSN certified nurse’s take time to develop personalized health plans, as each athlete is unique and has different needs. These plans consider the athlete’s mental, physical, and nutritional aspects. Nurses also educate athletes and other individuals on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This could include getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. Additionally, nurses are trained to recognize when someone is suffering from a mental health problem. They can recognize signs like anxiety, stress, and other psychological challenges. With their skills and experience, MSN nurses provide support and address these challenges, contributing to the athlete’s holistic wellbeing.
Sports science research
Nurses interested in the science side of sports nursing can specialize in sports science research. These nurses provide valuable insights and obtain clinically relevant outcomes that can be applied in real-life healthcare settings.
They can also opt to research injury prevention, innovative rehabilitation techniques, or how athletes’ lifestyle affect their performance and health. Some MSN nurses investigate the mental aspect of sports, evaluating the prevalence of mental health issues and creating strategies to support mental wellbeing. A sports medicine nurse can also explore the effects of nutrition on athletic performance and create customized nutrition plans based on research.
MSN certified nurse’s specializing in sports medicine play a crucial role in optimizing the health and performance of athletes in all stages of the process, from assessment and diagnosis to rehabilitation and recovery. As the field of sports medicine continues to evolve, nurses with an MSN can make significant contributions to the medical field by combining their expertise in medical/surgical nursing with sports science research initiatives.