Become a Flight Nurse!

Flight nursing is an area of specialty nursing within the health care industry, it is sometimes also referred to as critical care transport nursing. A flight nurse provides pre-hospital emergency assistance to patients aboard aircrafts and helicopters in life-threatening situations. They receive extensive training in emergency care, intensive care and critical care so that they can provide any and all of it at the same time.

Required Education and Expected Salary

Flight nurses are usually registered nurses (RNs) that have advanced specialized training in areas like emergency medical technician paramedics (EMT), pre-hospital care, intensive care and emergency department care. Some flight nurses have military experience or training or have been EMT paramedics in the past. To become a RN requires obtaining a degree of Bachelor in Science Nursing (BSN); which is a four year degree program, as well as passing the national RN exam (NCLEX-RN) and state board exam for the state in which you wish to work.

Many of the reputable flight transport companies will not even consider hiring a flight nurse who doesn’t have at least three years of work experience in a critical care or intensive care unit (ICU). Some of the higher paying companies require a minimum of five years work experience. Companies will provide training on their specific aircraft protocols and safety policies, but otherwise this is not considered a learn-on-the-job position.

There are flight nurse programs being offered in several states, and all usually require at least two years work experience in an ICU environment. Otherwise, while you are working and gaining experience you can increases your chances of being selected as a flight nurse by taking courses such as basic and advanced cardiac life support, trauma nurse core courses, advanced cardiac life support or even the air-medical crew national standard curriculum.

The average annual salary for a flight nurse is approximately $66,000. This salary could be higher or lower depending on the company and state in which you work, years of experience and the types of certificates that you’ve acquired.

Flight Nurse Practice Setting

There are currently the highest amount of flight nurses working for military agencies like the Army, Navy and Air Force. Flight nurses can also work in a variety of non-military settings like medical evacuation firms, fire departments, hospitals and government agencies on the local, state and federal levels. Although most flight nurses will work aboard airplanes and helicopters, they can also be found working with paramedics in ambulances. At times you may be helping transport patients from one care facility to another but more often flight nurses are the first to arrive on the scene of natural disasters and possibly fatal car wrecks.

Flight Nurse Roles and Duties

As a flight nurse you will work as part of a medical team that is generally comprised of pilots or drivers, other nurses and EMT-paramedics. There are a variety of skills needed when dealing with patients that are in critical condition. The expertise of the flight nurse within the team is extensive critical care knowledge, being able to initiate a care plan and prep the patient; all the while making sure the patient is safe at all times. Most flight nurse’s expertise will be in areas involving hemodynamic support, vasoactive medications and mechanical ventilation. A flight nurses duties could also involve requesting medications, supplies and necessary medical equipment be ready at the destination facility.

Flight Nurse Job Search

Becoming a flight nurse can be a lengthy process compared to other nursing jobs. Not only do you need to have all required schooling but also many years of experience before you will even be considered for the position. It is also good to note that there are not usually many openings for flight nurses and you may have to wait to find a position available in your area. The reason for this is the low turnover rate for flight nurses. Although, this may sound discouraging, it should actually encourage you to know that so many flight nurses love their jobs so much, they don’t want to ever leave them.


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