How to become a Flight or Surface Transport Nurse


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astna | air and surface transport nurses association has excellent information about this specialty:

what are some of the common pre-requisites to move into the transport nursing environment?

while all programs are different, and the nursing shortage has caused a change in the overall healthcare environment, most programs require the following:

  • license as a registered nurse in the respective state of practice
  • 2-3 year’s critical care/emergency experience or applicable acute care nursing environment
  • bcls – basic cardiac life support
  • acls – advanced cardiac life support certificate
  • pals – pediatric advanced life support certificate
  • nrp - neonatal resuscitation program
  • a nationally recognized trauma program such as tnatc (transport nurse advanced trauma course (tnatc), btls (basic trauma life support), phtls (pre-hospital trauma life support), tncc (trauma nurse core curriculum)
  • certifications such as certified flight registered nurse (cfrn), critical care registered nurse (ccrn), certified emergency nurse (cen) may be required within six months to one year of hire

additionally, some programs and/or state’s may require nurses to have emt-b or emt-p (paramedic) certification.

specific requirements will vary from program to program and state to state. it is important to check with programs you may be interested in working for to confirm their particular requirements.

if you are a nursing student or a new nurse it is important to keep in mind that focusing on a general area of critical care will be the most advantageous as in the transport environment, depending on the program, the transport nurse may be subjected to a wide variety of patients that include, but are not limited to: neonates, obstetrical patients, children, the elderly, rehab, neurological, cardiac, hospice, organ transplant, trauma, etc.

when it is just you and your partner at the side of a critically ill or injured patient, you need to have the experience, expertise and clinical judgment to be able to develop a proactive plan of care. this proactive plan must to be implemented to provide the best patient care while you are in the air, or on a highway in the back of a ground ambulance.

additionally, you will need to add in all the factors and skills that will come into play while you are caring for your patient. the ability to conduct rapid assessments and reassessments and the ability to constantly adjust your plan during the transport is the key to success in the transport environment. remember, it is only you and your team mate, a set of protocols and a voice on the radio or satellite phone from your program medical control physician. this is why you need a strong critical care background coupled with a variety of patient experiences, and a strong ability to think outside the box and persevere.

how can i get training that is specific to my interest (i.e. ground services, helicopter or fixed-wing)?

each program is responsible for providing appropriate training for you once you are hired. this training will usually focus on altitude physiology, safety & survival and a host of other topics that are applicable to the unique aeromedical environment. however, in order to expand your knowledge base there are a multitude of conferences, lectures, etc. that are highly recommended to supplement your training. these include, but are not limited to:

critical care transport medicine conference (cctmc) – held in the spring of each year.

air medical transport conference (amtc) – held in the fall of each year.

information about these two major conferences can be obtained from the astna website ( and the association of air medical services website (

there are often special programs run by local transport crewmembers related to coursework in transport nursing, check with your local college or university to see if there are any specific program offerings in your area.

interested in entering this specialty?

jeffstat philadelphia, pa provides observation shift. see if your area flight program has similar program.

be aware there is a weight limit for flight staff: 200lbs or less.