Become A Flight Nurse

Becoming a flight nurse, also called a transport nurse is a registered nurse with special training to provide medical care during aircraft transportation of patients. A flight nurse is part of a team. It usually includes physicians, flight medics, and other medical providers to handle particular conditions.  

Flight nurses give medical attention to the ill or injured in emergencies and attend to them during a flight on helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft. They perform the necessary procedures that keep a patient stable until the aircraft lands and the patient taken to a proper healthcare facility.  Transport nurses can work in civilian or military environments. 

The work of a flight nurse is to provide critical care to patients in unstable environments.  It requires much training of healthcare professionals to deliver emergency care on the ground and in the aircraft to stabilize a patient.  Most of the time, rescue planes land at environments with limited resources and find traumatized patients.  Flight nurses must have skills to perform speedy evacuation from a location to a medical facility or quickly transport a patient from a hospital to another. 

Military flight nurses work at home and abroad treating patients wounded during battles. They should have traits to administer life-sustaining care in a highly pressurized environment.  A flight nurse must have the ability to work in stressful situations. 

Steps To Become a Flight Nurse  

The career of a flight nurse is highly rewarding, but the path to reach there takes much education, time, training, focus, and effort. Aspiring flight nurses must familiarize themselves with the basic aspects of flight and navigation.  The minimum academic requirement is a BSN degree. It is possible to be a registered nurse (RN) without having a bachelor’s degree, but it limits career advancements, and it might not be possible to become a flight nurse. 

 Educational Qualifications to Become a Flight Nurse 

The steps to becoming a nurse start early by earning a high GPA score at high school. Students who aspire to become flight nurses should keep their average GPA above the requirements to join a nursing program. The higher is better because of the stiff competition to join a nursing school. 

After passing high school examinations, the follow-up step is to search for an ideal college or university offering a four year BSN degree and make an application. After graduating, a nurse must sit and pass an exam by the licensing body such an NCLEX-RN in the United States to get a license. Some nurses find it valuable to continue their nursing education and earn an MSN degree. 

Skills and Experience to Become a Flight Nurse 

Some employers have particular requirements that nurses should complete when applying to become a flight nurse. Others give a timeline for RNs to practice for them to attain requirements for employment. All health providers of flight service should have experience in an emergency or critical care setting. It is essential to apply for work in these settings and learn about caring for emergency and critical care patients before applying for a flight nurse’s job.  It is almost a requirement for a nurse to have experience in working at an emergency department(ED) or a trauma unit. Employers also consider critical care nurses.  

It is at ED where nurses gain skills to manage a patient whose condition changes constantly due to experiencing a variety of mild to life-threatening symptoms that can even exist in tandem. If you aspire to become a flight nurse, work for a year after certification to practice as an RN, and then request a transfer to an emergency room or an intensive care unit at a busy hospital.  Spending several years while working in critical care provides the necessary experience to qualify for flight nursing job. Earning certain certifications also increases the chances of employment. Some of the certifications that qualify nurses for a flight job are in these areas of practice. 

  • Basic trauma 
  • Cardiac life support  
  • Pediatric advanced life support
  • Basic trauma life support  
  • Neonatal resuscitation program certifications

Specialized training is mandatory for flight nursing. Nurses learn how to maintain composure during emergency flights, swimming, and making quick life-changing decisions based on most appropriate nursing judgment at the time. They must also learn to give all the necessary attention to patients care and safety.  Because of the high demand to become a flight, nurse employers require nurses to have experience of 3-5 years at a hospital while specializing in critical and intensive care. 

Some of them require nurses to do particular psychological tests for them to ensure that they can handle the tough physical and mental demands for flight nurse jobs. An additional step by some recruiters is that a nurse should have certification by flight nurse-certifying bodies. For example, a nurse in the USA can obtain a Certified Transport Registered Nurse or a Certified Flight Registered Nurse certification. They are a good way to demonstrate competence to prospective flight nursing employers. 

It is essential to check with the services where you would like to work to know their requirements before making an application.

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 Training After Flight Nurse Recruitment 

Nurses who join a flight service will get medical training and also train on matters relating to flight. They learn safety measures regarding aircraft, loading, and unloading procedures. They also learn survival training if there is a crash. Flight nursing requires nurses to engage in continuing education and maintain all certifications.   

Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) is one of the most amazing organizations in supporting transport nurses and professionals.  It is an association that has been offering professional service for more than 35 years. ASTNA helps to advance transport nursing skills to enhance the quality of patient care through a commitment to safety and education for members.  Becoming a member opens up chances to get continuing education, support, and resources that are specific to this nursing specialty. 

 Openings to Become a Flight Nurse 

Most of the flight nurse job openings are in the United States, where more than 800 medical transport helicopters operate as part of many rescue programs. Other positions are at various aviation companies and teaching/university hospitals that operate within communities. Europe, Australia, and Middle East regions also have flight programs for patients. Apart from working at private medical transporters, flight nurses can also work for these employers: 

  • Government 
  • Fire departments  
  • Search and rescue operation organizations 
  • Military 

Becoming a flight nurse has many conditions to meet, but it is a rewarding career because of saving lives for patients in places without medical facilities. The salary depends on location, a particular program, and if it is a hospital or community-based.  Most flight nurses earn between $50,000 and $120,000.