Considering career in flight nurse/ need advice!

  1. 1
    Hello,

    Currently I am taking my pre-reqs to transfer into a Nursing Program. I'm from NYC. I currently am a Patient Care Associate in a surgical department. One of the RNS told me about Flight Nurses. I have several questions about this career path. I have been trouble finding out more information.

    1. What are the EXACT duties and expectations of a Flight Nurse?
    2. Does a flight nurse work internationally or nationally?
    3. After getting ER/ICU/etc. experience how does on exactly become a flight nurse?
    I read you have to go to a program or academy. I only seem to find one in the USA.
    4. What is the works schedule like? Salary?
    5. Any thoughts of working as a flight nurse in the armed forces (navy/air force)? If so, what is the process?

    I know, very specific questions. Anyone that can help, I'd highly appreciate it. Thank You.
    rnjinny likes this.
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  3. 5 Comments so far...

  4. 5
    The EXACT duties of a Flight RN will vary based on what type of flight nursing you are looking into, and within those duties EXACT is a word that you will rarely come by. If you are considering rotor wing, helicopters, your duties will range from on-scene ems type calls to critical care transports that will stretch any knowledge base you've compiled over any number of years. If you are looking at fixed wing, airplanes, you will cover the most basic transports at times, and have 10 hours of flight time on a critical patient at other times. If you are considering rotor wing programs, you will be limited to local transports for the most part. I worked for a pediatric specialty rotor wing service for several years, and even we were limited to about 180 nautical miles. That's a long, long way to travel in a helicopter, and nothing about those trips are any fun. If you are looking at the fixed wing path, you could end up at most any place in the world at most any time based on the program and their marketing reach. I am current with a fixed wing program that covers North, Central, and South America, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and we will also contract with another local provider to travel worldwide. There are no programs or academies for becoming a flight nurse. If anyone sells you that, it's a load of BS. The best way is to immerse yourself in the ER and Critical Care worlds of nursing. Work at a busy, urban facility that covers all areas from trauma to surgical to neuro to cardiac critical care. It's even beneficial to throw a paramedic certification and a part-time job running the streets in there. The experience you can gain there is invaluable to rotor wing, and it prepares you to think in a much more independent manner than any type of nursing will ever do. The pay sucks, but the time is worth it if you want to be a flight nurse. Schedules vary. Some rotor services work 24/48 or 24/72 schedules. My fixed wing company even varies within itself. I have some nurses on a M-F type schedule. I have others on a 9 on/5 off rotation. The salary is comparable to hospital pay for the most part. It is very, very competitive though. I hope this helps point you in a direction. I started my career as a paramedic, then transitioned into nursing. The world of flight nursing, both rotor and fixed wing, are hands down better than any in-hospital environment that you will ever find. You are free to do your job and you are expected to know how and when to do it.
    rnjinny, SoFloRN, RN. Vicky Smith, and 2 others like this.
  5. 0
    1. Thank You SOO much for responding to my post. I found it extremely helpful
    Especially the rotor wing vs. fixed wing programs.

    If you don't mind I still have a few more questions.

    What type of companies hire flight nurses? Where would one begin to inquire?
    Also, what does a 24/48 or 24/72 schedule mean? Does that mean for example 24 hrs straight for two day or three days?
  6. 0
    In Southern California, the flight nurses have over 20 years of experience at a minimum. There are so few of them, and they never retire, that openings are extremely rare.
  7. 0
    I am a flight nurse in the midwest... We work 24 hours on, 24 off, 24 on, 5 days off. 24/48 means 24 hours on, 48 off. 24s aren't bad.

    1. What are the EXACT duties and expectations of a Flight Nurse?
    2. Does a flight nurse work internationally or nationally? In New York your company may send you to Canada to pick up patients if you are part of a hospital based system.
    3. After getting ER/ICU/etc. experience how does on exactly become a flight nurse? 3-5 years of ER and ICU experience depending on the type of agency you work for.
    I read you have to go to a program or academy. I only seem to find one in the USA. Not usually. You generally need ER, ICU and prehospital experience.
    4. What is the works schedule like? Salary? The salary is about the same as RNs working in acute care here in the midwest.

    I hope this helps Good luck in your quest!
  8. 1
    The best way to get a description of the duties and expectations of a flight nurse is to look at open position ads. Look in the job section of FlightWeb - For Air Medical Professionals or on individual air medical program websites.

    I would recommend getting at least a couple of years of ICU nursing if you decide to go the ER route, especially if you want to work in a RN/PM configuration. It's not often required to have ICU over ER experience but it is a huge advantage and you will find the transition into flight nursing less daunting. Some pediatric experience is also beneficial.

    You will also need all the alphabet courses but I would not recommend getting transport or flight certifications until you are actually in a transport/flight position. Concentrate on the other courses and instructor certs are an advantage as well. By alphabet soup courses, I mean ACLS, PALS, NRP, PHTLS, ITLS, TNCC, etc. Certification in CCRN or similar is preferred and sometimes required by some flight programs.

    Some hospital based flight programs work 12 hour shifts but the majority of the programs do 24's. If you do 24's, you usually average 2 shifts a week so it gives you time to do a hospital or other second job to supplement the generally lower wage you make as FN compared to a hospital nurse. Hospital programs generally pay better than community programs on average.

    If you are really serious about it as a career then I would recommend you contact your local air medical team and see if you can do a ride along. You can bombard them with questions all day long and get a feel for what they really do. It is also good to know if you have trouble with air sickness before you focus on a flying career!
    BrandonB779 likes this.


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