Flight/Transport Nurse

Why Become a Flight Nurse?

Becoming a flight nurse offers numerous benefits and opportunities for those seeking an exciting, challenging, and rewarding career in the nursing field.

These healthcare professionals provide essential medical care to patients during air transport, often working in high-pressure situations and collaborating with other members of emergency medical services teams.

Flight nurses possess specialized skills and knowledge in critical care, emergency medicine, and aviation safety, making them an invaluable asset to patients and their families during times of crisis.

There are several reasons to consider pursuing a career as a flight nurse, including the following:

  • High demand: The need for skilled flight nurses is expected to grow as air medical transport services continue to expand. This demand can lead to increased job opportunities and job security for those who choose this career path.
  • Competitive salary: Due to the specialized training and certifications required for flight nursing, these professionals often earn higher salaries compared to other nursing specialties.
  • Dynamic work environment: Flight nursing provides an exciting and ever-changing work environment, with new challenges and experiences every day. This can be particularly appealing to those who enjoy fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled situations.
  • Opportunity to travel: As part of their job responsibilities, flight nurses have the chance to travel both domestically and internationally on various medical missions.
  • Making a difference: Flight nurses play a crucial role in saving lives by providing critical care during patient transport. This can lead to high levels of job satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
  • Professional growth: The field of flight nursing offers numerous opportunities for professional growth through continuing education, certification programs, and advancements within the profession.
  • Diverse work settings: Flight nurses can find employment in a variety of settings, such as air ambulance services, military medical transport units, disaster relief operations, or commercial airline medical escort roles.

The high demand for these specialized professionals, combined with the opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives, makes flight nursing an attractive career choice for many nurses.

What Is a Flight Nurse?

A flight nurse is a registered nurse (RN) with specialized training in critical care, emergency medicine, and patient transport via aircraft. These nurses provide vital medical care to patients during air transport, often in life-threatening situations. They are an essential part of emergency medical services and work closely with paramedics, pilots, and other healthcare professionals to ensure patient safety during transportation.

Key characteristics of a flight nurse include:

  • Extensive knowledge of critical care nursing
  • Advanced skills in emergency medicine
  • Ability to handle high-pressure situations
  • Strong communication skills with patients and team members
  • Proficiency in using advanced medical equipment
  • Knowledge of aviation safety and regulations
  • Physical fitness for working in confined spaces

Qualifications and Job Duties

Flight nurses are required to have specific qualifications and certifications in order to provide high-quality care during patient transport. Some of these qualifications include:

Job DutyDescription
Patient AssessmentFlight nurses must be able to quickly assess a patient’s condition and determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Emergency CareThey must be skilled in providing emergency medical care, including administering medications, managing airways, and performing CPR.
MonitoringFlight nurses are responsible for continuously monitoring a patient’s vital signs and adjusting treatment as necessary.
CommunicationThey must communicate effectively with other members of the transport team, including paramedics, pilots, and ground personnel.
DocumentationFlight nurses are responsible for maintaining accurate and thorough patient records during transport.
Equipment OperationThey must be proficient in using advanced medical equipment such as ventilators, infusion pumps, and defibrillators.
Aviation SafetyFlight nurses must have a strong understanding of aviation safety and regulations to ensure the safety of both patients and crew members during transport.

Additional certifications may be required depending on the specific job requirements, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) or Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing is a helpful resource for flight nurse certification information.

Steps to Become a Flight Nurse

  1. Complete a nursing degree: To become a flight nurse, you must first complete an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program.
  2. Obtain RN licensure: After completing your nursing degree, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to obtain your RN license.
  3. Gain clinical experience: It is essential to gain experience working in critical care or emergency settings before pursuing a career as a flight nurse.
  4. Obtain additional certifications: Flight nurses are often required to hold certifications such as ACLS, PALS, and Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN).
  5. Complete flight nurse training: Some employers may require additional training specific to flight nursing or provide on-the-job training for new flight nurses.
  6. Apply for flight nurse positions: Once you have the necessary qualifications and experience, you can begin applying for flight nurse positions.
  7. Maintain certifications and continuing education: As a flight nurse, it is important to stay current with advancements in the field and maintain your certifications through continuing education.

For more information on becoming a flight nurse, visit the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association website.

Typical Classes and Ways to Prepare to Become a Flight Nurse

Flight nursing requires specialized knowledge and skills in critical care, emergency medicine, and aviation safety. Some classes that may be helpful in preparing for this career include:

  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Emergency Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Trauma Nursing
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Aviation Safety and Regulations

A typical nursing program that offers these courses can be found at Example School’s Program.

5 Ways You Can Prepare to Become a Flight Nurse

  1. Volunteer or work in an emergency medical setting: Gaining hands-on experience in an emergency room or intensive care unit can help prepare you for the high-pressure situations faced by flight nurses.
  2. Complete additional training courses: Taking courses in trauma care, advanced life support, or pediatric care can help build your skills and knowledge as a future flight nurse.
  3. Join professional organizations: Becoming a member of organizations like the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association can provide valuable networking opportunities and access to resources related to flight nursing.
  4. Attend conferences or workshops: Participating in industry events focused on critical care or emergency nursing can help keep you up-to-date with the latest advancements and best practices in the field.
  5. Shadow a flight nurse: If possible, arrange to shadow a flight nurse during a shift to gain insight into the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges of the job.

Benefits of Being a Flight Nurse

High DemandThe demand for skilled flight nurses is expected to grow as air medical transport services continue to expand.
Competitive SalaryFlight nurses often earn higher salaries compared to other nursing specialties due to the specialized skills and training required.
Exciting Work EnvironmentFlight nursing offers an exciting and dynamic work environment, with new challenges and experiences every day.
Opportunity to TravelFlight nurses have the opportunity to travel both domestically and internationally as part of their job.
Making a DifferenceFlight nurses play a crucial role in saving lives by providing critical care during patient transport.
Professional GrowthThe field of flight nursing offers opportunities for professional growth through continuing education and certification.
Job SatisfactionMany flight nurses find their work to be highly rewarding and satisfying, knowing they are making a difference in patients’ lives.

Typical Places a Flight Nurse Works

Flight nurses work in a variety of settings, providing critical care and emergency medical services to patients during air transport. Some common places where flight nurses can be found include:

  • Air ambulance services: Flight nurses are often employed by air ambulance companies to provide medical care to patients during transport from one medical facility to another or from an accident scene to a hospital.
  • Medical evacuation missions: In situations where patients need to be evacuated from remote or dangerous locations, flight nurses play a crucial role in providing medical care and ensuring safe transport.
  • Emergency response teams: Flight nurses may be part of emergency response teams that are called upon during natural disasters, mass casualty incidents, or other large-scale emergencies.
  • Military medical transport units: Some flight nurses work within the military, providing care to service members during medical evacuation missions or as part of combat search and rescue operations.
  • Remote medical clinics: Flight nurses may be stationed at remote clinics or hospitals, where they assist with patient transport and provide emergency care when necessary.
  • Disaster relief operations: During disaster relief efforts, flight nurses can provide vital medical support to affected populations, often working alongside other healthcare professionals and relief organizations.
  • Helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS): HEMS teams typically include a flight nurse, who provides care to patients during helicopter transport in emergency situations.
  • Fixed-wing aircraft patient transport: Flight nurses may also work on fixed-wing aircraft, providing long-distance patient transport and ensuring continuity of care during flights.
  • International repatriation services: In cases where patients require medical repatriation back to their home country, flight nurses are responsible for providing necessary care during the journey.
  • Commercial airline medical escort: Flight nurses can also serve as medical escorts on commercial flights, assisting passengers with health concerns or special needs.

In each of these settings, flight nurses play a vital role in ensuring patient safety and providing high-quality medical care during air transport. Their specialized skills and training make them an essential part of the emergency medical services team.

Salary and Job Outlook

Flight nursing is a growing field with competitive salaries and increasing demand for skilled professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses, including flight nurses, was $75,330 in 2020. However, flight nurses often earn higher salaries due to their specialized skills and certifications.

The job outlook for registered nurses is expected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by an increased demand for healthcare services, advances in medical technology, and the expanding role of nurses in patient care.

FAQ for Flight Nursing

Q: How long does it take to become a flight nurse?

A: The time it takes to become a flight nurse can vary depending on your educational background and clinical experience. Generally, it takes 2-4 years to complete a nursing degree, followed by additional time to gain critical care or emergency nursing experience and obtain necessary certifications.

Q: Do flight nurses work with both adult and pediatric patients?

A: Yes, flight nurses may work with patients of all ages, including infants, children, and adults. Some flight nurses may choose to specialize in pediatric or neonatal transport.

Q: Are there specific physical requirements for flight nurses?

A: Due to the nature of their work environment, flight nurses must be physically fit and able to perform tasks such as lifting patients and equipment in confined spaces. They should also have good vision and hearing.

Q: What is the difference between a flight nurse and a flight paramedic?

A: Both flight nurses and flight paramedics provide medical care during patient transport; however, flight nurses are registered nurses with specialized training in critical care and emergency medicine, while flight paramedics are trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with additional certification.

Q: Can I work as a flight nurse part-time or on-call?

A: Some air medical transport services may offer part-time or on-call positions for flight nurses, allowing them to maintain other nursing positions or balance their work-life commitments.

Resources and Further Reading for Flight Nursing

Explore additional nursing careers with this text link.

What Does a Flight/Transport Nurse Do?

Flight nursing, or transport nursing, includes critical care, emergency medical services and disaster response services to patients prior to hospital admittance. They are highly trained medical professions that make life and death decisions very quickly.

They must be able to work well in teams and react quickly to changes in patient and environmental conditions.

These nurses can work with patients located in remote areas that can’t reach hospitals in time or disaster sites like car accidents and scenes of natural disasters.

Flight nurses perform the necessary medical care while airlifting patients to safety and to the proper medical facilities. Some flight nurses can even travel with private patients that suffer from dangerous medical conditions during airline flights to ensure their safety.

These nurses must also be highly skilled communicators as they act as liaisons between themselves and the awaiting medical crews on the ground. They should have expertise in mechanical ventilation, vasoactive medication, and other intensive care skills.

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