Career Path to Flight Nursing

Specialties Flight Nursing Q/A

Career Path to Flight Nursing

Hoping for some advice and guidance. I am a 25 year old nurse. I currently work on a neuro/neurosurgery/trauma floor at a level I trauma center city hospital. My career goal has always been to be a flight nurse. I also have a 4 month old boy and am hoping to have 1-2 more children. My husband works night shift as a police officer and my parents are very involved so we've been able to avoid daycare and hope to do so for all of our children until preschool age (no judgement on this please, this is just how we are choosing to raise our kids).

I have some options for what I can do right now...

- Continue at my current job. I work 2 day shift 12's a week and am every third weekend and holiday. Great schedule. Am one of the charge nurses, place multiple IVs a day, am telemetry certified, and occasionally am involved in codes on the floor (a few a year when they happen). Don't love the hospital (but it is a trauma center) and don't love the patient population. Change jobs down the road, possibly once I'm done having kids.

- Work 24 hours at an infusion clinic. No weekends or holidays. A much more relaxed position at a hospital I love (but not a trauma center). A great job for a mom, but probably not very appealing on a resume for getting a critical care turn Flight nurse position.

- Start looking for ED or ICU positions (which do you recommend??) to start getting this experience under my belt. Most likely my schedule won't be so great, possibly only per diem since most open positions are night shift and I can't do that with my husband also working nights.

The flight nurse positions I have seen posted are all full time, so I would wait to do it until my kids are in school. Mostly wondering how to balance my mom life and nurse life so I can have a schedule that allows me to care for my children at home until school age, while not forgetting about my own career goals.

5 Answers

Specializes in ICU, Trauma, CCT,Emergency, Flight, OR Nursing.

I have posted several times on what is required/ expected in terms of qualifications and experience for the Flight Nursing Specialty on other posts in this section. I would caution you though in terms of being a mom, that Flight nursing is pretty unforgiving when it comes to family time and a healthy family life. Typically you work 24hour shifts , up to 48 hour shifts in areas, often long distances away from where you live. Many flight programs out there do not pay nearly as much as what one earns as a hospital RN so that leaves many having to pick up a Per Diem hospital job anyway, which further reduces your time at home with your family. Flight nursing is incredibly demanding in terms of extra education days , certifications that are required, way over and above what any hospital nursing job does. This heavily impacts your personal life. I have been a flight nurse specialist for 18 years and have seen many who just can't handle the lifestyle change that this job demands of one. Also, I always tell new nurses interviewing for flight positions to have "the Talk" with their loved ones and significant others in their lives. This job is extremely dangerous and death due to an accident is possible. This is a serious talk to be had and everyone in your family needs to be OK with this as well as the time that you will be away from home. I strongly encourage you to spend more time in the ICU at a large academic hospital preferably and get the experience. You can always have a flight positions are posted regularly. Enjoy your family and kids while they are young and need a mom around. Best of luck.

Specializes in BSN, RN-BC, NREMT, EMT-P, TCRN.

I have talked with a Chief Flight Nurse here is Jacksonville about becoming a flight nurse. He told me that he looks for CCRN nurses as they know all of the drugs. drips, how to use a vent, etc. He said that he occasionally will hire an ED nurse but focuses on CCRNs.

Specializes in Emergency, Critical Care, Pre-Hospital,.

I give this recommendation to most of the people who ask...

I work for a hospital based program that uses Air Methods as our vendor (they provide helicopter, pilot, and mechanic) our Hospital provides the medical crew.

Look around your area for an air service, most services have ride along programs, it gives you both an opportunity to see each other for "fit". It's nice to try to ride along early and make sure it is what you hope it is.

You'll usually need 3-5 years in a busy ED or ICU. My program allowed me in with ED only, but as we do 80% inter facility calls I was not as prepared as I could have been had I had some ICU experience.

Here is the brochure from Air Methods, the largest provider of air medical in the US. This will give you a basic "feel" for what you need to get started. All programs have their own requirements, but they are all fairly similar as the programs seek to meet national certification standards.

Here is another great site with very practical resources and information for someone looking to get into air medical. EMS Flight Safety Network | The people who keep air medical flights safe.

Watch the ECHO page Training Overview — East Coast Helicopter Operations or their facebook page. They do a prospective flight crew academy to help you prep for this job.

Specializes in Emergency / Disaster.

I am just beginning my nursing journey, so I cannot speak to that portion - but I am a mom with a kid that I homeschooled from 6th grade through high school. I sent her to Montessori school at 2 years old so she could learn to play with other kids (she was an only child so he didn't have siblings to learn to share with). Her father was military and was not home much (read that 11 months of 5 years and when he was gone - I didn't know where he was). I quit my job as a programmer (essentially ending my career as a programmer) so that I could be home with her and started teaching aerobics - MAJOR pay-cut!!! Now many years later, even with a degree it is just about impossible for me to get anything more than an entry level programming job. I don't regret my choice at all. I was home with my child almost every night (I did work for the Red Cross for awhile and hurricane Katrina kept me away from home a little while - luckily my mom could help me out). There are many opportunities that I missed because of my choice - but standing on the other side with a kid in college, that scored extremely high on her SAT, that received the highest awarded State Scholarship for college, that will graduate as a Math Major in another 2 years - I couldn't be more proud of my solid choice. She needed a mom and I was there. Almost every day of her life - I was there with her. She still calls me about once a week to just talk and decompress. Even in college - she is still connected to me. I gave her all the skills I possibly could - its up to her to succeed now. The flip side to that is it is also my time to succeed!!

When you are at work - be at work, but have a job that allows you to be at home when you are at home. No calls in the middle of the day, no leaving in the middle of the night. At home means at home. Be the mom you want to be. You will never regret your decision to put your family first.

God gave me just 1 job - to be a mom - and when I stand in front of him I can say that while I made mistakes, I did the best I could.

If anyone would have asked if I would have given up my career for my daughter when she was 4 months old - I would have said NEVER. I quit the very day she was about 16 months old - holding onto my leg crying because she just wanted held and I was angry with her because I was on a tight deadline. When I realized that I was mad at my baby for being a baby and needing her momma - I picked up the phone and quit (I did finish the project - but I still quit that day).

Ultimately this is a choice for you - not even your husband - but you as a momma. Your heart is telling you want you want / need to do. Nothing that any of us tell you can overcome what your heart is telling you. You may not really want to listen - but your momma heart knows.

In reply to Ricky,

I am not sure what service he works for but many in our area make almost double what a hospital RN makes. Many of our full time nurses make well over 110K with others making 200K being overtime hogs. I would definitely say go with ICU. From your comments regarding telemetry certified and placing IV's I would venture to say there is a lack of critical care in your background. In a flight RN interview alone, you will be handed an EKG and asked to identify it and treat. This could be as simple as an inferior wall MI with posterior involvement or get into axis deviation ect. Almost all flight nurses go above their job to study and get certs under their belt before even applying. I would encourage you to find a very sick ICU and learn as much as you can on hemodynamics ect. ER typically isn't what we look for in a nurse, that's why we fly a nurse/medic crew. Ricky is right about the family life. We work 72h weeks followed by 48hr weeks. It is not for everyone, but for those of us that do it, love it. I couldn't imagine a better, more exciting and rewarding job!

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