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Flight nursing in Wyoming and or panhandle of Nebraska

WYRN WYRN (New) New Student

Hello all,

I was wondering if there was any flight nurses on allnurses.com that fly in Wyoming or in the panhandle of Nebraska? Young nurse here wondering what flight nursing is like and possibly thinking about it for the future! What were your stats when applying to become a flight nurse such as years, department, certifications? How long does the average flight nurse stay in flight nursing? Also, anything else you would think as useful information. Please no rude comments. Thank you! 

I'm a flight nurse in the western US; not in the exact area you specified, but I think I can still answer your questions. 

First, flight nursing is by far the absolutely best specialty there is.  You will have the opportunity to practice far more independently and with an enhanced skill set (possibly including intubation, central lines and chest tubes) than in any other area. People will tell you CRNAs/ECMO specialists/home health RNs work independently too, but consider this: in the rural areas I work, we may respond to a patient over 100 air miles from the nearest full-service hospital, with no local EMS, no doctors, and no other nurses.  Then, we have to deal with whatever the patient's medical or traumatic issue is for the next 1-3 hours while we fly them to get further care. You, your partner, and your pilot are, quite literally, an island.

With this immense responsibility comes potentially immense satisfaction. You have to decide if this responsibility is worth it to you, and try to live up to the task.

Like everything in life, flight nursing is not like it seems on TV. There will be slow days, immensely busy days full of patients who generate hours of charting but don't actually need your skills, and days spent doing nothing but showing your helicopter to school kids.  Delivering critical care will be complicated by turbulence, a heavy helmet, and a small workspace. But, on the best days it will exceed all your expectations and your crew will be your second family.

When I started I had several years of EMS paramedic experience as well as four years of nursing in 2 different types of ICUs with my CCRN. (And all the course-in-a-box certs: ACLS, PALS, NRP, TNCC/PHTLS)  This is on the low end for RN experience (absolute minimum is 3 years ED/ICU, many programs have much more stringent requirements) my paramedic background supplemented by RN time.

On paper, ED or ICU time is generally considered an acceptable background.  In actuality you need as much high-level ICU time as you can acquire.  You need to use this time to learn complex physiology, good judgement, and confidence without being cocky.  This is because your job will include going to overwhelmed small hospitals and (politely) bossing them around to get your patient the best care.

You will likely be partnered with phenomenal paramedics; they can teach you scene management, airway skills, and resuscitation of the completely undifferentiated patient.  They cannot teach you high level critical care, and they do not need an ED nurse as their partner. They need an ICU nurse to fill in their knowledge gaps. Most essentially that would be troubleshooting of complex ICU devices (ie IABPs), salvage strategies for patients failing conventional therapy for any condition, uncommon critical-illness related hospital complications (ie abdominal compartment syndrome etc), and a broadened pharmacology knowledge base.

How long does the "average flight nurse" stay in the field?  (Well, obviously none of us are average 😉)  It takes several years to feel comfortable with what you're doing, and years to gain the experience to get here, so generally this is a long lived specialty.

 

Thanks for all the information! Greatly appreciated! What’s the youngest flight nurse you have encountered with age and or experience?

For nurses who went straight to ICU/ED then got a flight position, it's possible to be flight nursing in your mid-late 20s with that bare minimum of 3 years RN experience.

On rare occasion I've met flight paramedics who are even younger; you can start an EMT program in high school and be working as a paramedic by age 19!

Thank you for all the information! Greatly appreciated!!

KSmedic, BSN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ED, flight, IR.

My first flight job was in Wyoming, and I am familiar with the programs in the area. I worked in flight nursing for about 4 years total, and now work in the hospital in IR. It is a very challenging job, and it can be a very rewarding job at times. For me, it didn't work out long term because I got tired of the commute, long hours, mediocre pay, etc. Getting paid to fly around in a heli or fixed wing seems to good to be true at first, but eventually every job  becomes just that - a job. That being said, I've worked with plenty of flight nurses/medics who do the jobs for years and years and never stop loving it.

Most flight companies will require 3-5 years of quality experience (busy ED, ICU, trauma, peds, etc.) before they'll even truly look at your application - I got a lot of "no thanks" emails when I first started applying to flight RN positions. When I got hired for my first flight position, I had 7 years of paramedic experience and 4 years of nursing experience. Certifications are always a plus, especially CEN, CCRN, and CFRN. Having the CFRN cert before getting a flight job is a little like having the cart before the horse though.

Also, IMO, having varied experience is super helpful and often overlooked. For example, if you have 10 yrs of cardiac ICU time, you will be an expert with sick cardiac pt transports. However, your first flight could be a pediatric trauma pt, and you might feel like you're back in nursing school and you have no idea what to do.

Being a successful flight nurse also requires a set of skills that people don't think of - people skills. You have to be comfortable with being out of your comfort zone every day. Wearing a Nomex suit is awful in the Summer and terrible in the Winter. You'll work with pilots/medics/mechanics/etc. who annoy the crap out of you. Also, you'll sometimes go to a small rural hospital and be shocked at the care they've been providing. You have to take all of this in stride, be thankful and appreciative, and sell yourself and your company to the pt and/or sending agency. I've always told people who ask me about flight nursing that it's about 1/2 medicine and 1/2 politics.

All in all, I'm very grateful that I ever had the chance to do the job. For the most part, it was all I thought it would be and more. Good luck in your journey!

BigSkyRN

Specializes in ED/ICU/Flight/Education.

Much of what KSmedic says is true. I flew two years in MT, loved it until our base closed. Depending on who you fly for it can be a very different experience (see politics). My experience was about 6 years ED with some ICU mixed in. Most of my time was in a Level 2 inner city trauma center, good mix of critical care. Experience as charge is definitely a plus. Not sure of the average career length for flight nurses but I could see it being very short or very long depending on whether you love or hate it.

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