Flight nurses require a Registered Nurse license with several years of experience in critical care and/or emergency nursing. Some RNs may already be required to have or plan on obtaining paramedic certification/license. Certifications in BLS, ACLS, NRP (Neonatal Resuscitation Program), TNCC (Trauma Nursing Core Course) and PALS (Pediatric Advanced Cardiac Life Support) are usually required. Other certifications that may be mandatory are Basic Trauma Life Support, Pre Trauma Life Support, and Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course, CCRN and/or CEN. Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) often required within one year of hire. Hazardous material training is beneficial due to the occasional landing sites near accidents or large scale spills of hazardous materials.
Flight nurses work outdoors when arriving at an accident scene or a scene of a disaster. Exposure to inclement weather may be possible, although many flights have criteria to not operate in certain types of weather. Flight nurses work close to moving mechanical parts which and must be aware of potential flight turbulence. They will also be traveling to inpatient facilities for inter-hospital transfers that may require rapid transport. There are challenges while working inflight that include cramped surroundings and loud noise from the aircraft. Noise is such a problem that many employers require intermittent hearing tests and all flight crew are required or strongly encouraged to wear hearing protection.
Skills / Qualities
The ability to quickly adapt to different working environments is important. Nurses must be skilled in many different areas such as managing IV medications, ventilation management, advanced life support and cardiac monitoring. Understanding of pre hospital and emergency care on top of critical care is vital. Quick life and death decisions are frequent, so nurses must be comfortable in the management of the critically ill. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to work in high pressure, rapidly changing situations is highly valued. Some employers may even have height and weight restrictions.
Duties / Responsibilities
Flight nursing has numerous responsibilities which include:
Rapid and thorough assessment/triage of patients with conditions such as trauma, cardiac, respiratory and other critical illnesses.
Management of pediatric clients
The ability to work closely with other flight nurses, flight paramedics, advanced practice nurses/physicians
Airway and ventilator management
Initiation and management of intravenous medication, fluids, and blood products
Maintaining patient safety before, during and after flight
May be required to participate in community and outreach and other educational events
May be required to participate in preflight liftoff checks and/or assist other flight personnel.
Initiation of emergency care in the absence of a physician
Management of patients during aircraft problems such as rapid decompression, wheels-up landings, and other aircraft emergencies
Flight nurses typically experience a low rate of turnover so openings are not as abundant. Employers include private companies, hospital systems, or are members of the military.
Salaries are typically higher than average for flight nurses due to the extensive required experience. Some websites have quoted an average salary of $55,000 per year to up to $96,000 per year.
Air and Surface Transport Nurses Association
Association of Air Medical Services
Medevac Foundation International