Personalities who should not work as flight nurses:
Those who only want to wear the flight suit; those who want to take dozens of Instagram selfies of themselves and show how awesome they are. Those who are in it for themselves and how they perceive it will make them appear great. Those who only "like to care for the dying or those who need to be coded; the "sickest of the sick" and not being the type of "nursey nurse" who holds patients hands and reassures them. Arrogance, ignorance and self centeredness have no place on any flight crew. I've been involved in interviewing more Flight nurse candidates than I can remember, and the above type personalities are ones that typically don't get hired at quality flight programs. We don't want Yahoo's. We want humble, educated, experienced professional people who are mature and take their career seriously
Flight nursing is different from many other specialties in that you are expected to give a lot more of your time to work in terms of shifts (24-48's) education days, clinical rotation days etc when most other nurses have the day off. Typically you have to travel long distances to the nearest helicopter base (not uncommon to drive 2-3hrs to get to work, each way; after a 24hr shift). Be prepared to sacrifice your social life and life with your family as work will take up a lot of your time. There are some flight programs out there that do 12 hour shifts (typically the hospital based/owned flight programs) where one's schedule is somewhat better, as is the pay. It would be hard to find any flight/ transport programs that pay as much as hospitals do, unless they are owned by the hospital and you are hospital staff in the flight RN role. Typically, expect to take a pay cut. No differentials if you work for community base programs (such as weekend, night, evening differentials). No education benefits such as tuition reimbursement etc. Any many of the other benefits that hospital nursing offers one.
After 22yrs as a RN and 18 as a flight nurse, I finally hung up my helmet this week and embark on a new specialty in the OR on Monday. Doing this for a variety of reasons, but some of the biggest are not having to work nights, weekends and public holidays any longer; having a less dangerous/ risky job in terms of personal safety and legal liability ; being disillusioned with the growing Financial/ competition drivers of the flight industry and the pressure those place on crew members to take flights , often with little regard to their own safety despite lip service to the contrary. The growing arrogance of many crew members with little experience or sufficient education and know it all attitudes . The hours and hours or even days of sitting around doing absolutely nothing is soul destroying , especially if you are a nurse like me who loves taking care of patients and actually nursing patients. I had 2 months of night shift with only 2 flights! That kills one and destroys ones motivation and interest in work with boredom. It is seldom 12-24hours of action all the time at most programs, and when it is people burn out fast.
If I could have my life over, I would most definitely have chosen the flight career , but may have exited a lot earlier and gone back to school for my CRNA. I loved my job , while it was good, busy and stimulating. Once the boredom set in, I needed to do something entirely different and hence the fact for my specialty change.
My advice for nurses considering the specialty; try and get hired at a hospital based flight program (as a flight RN employed by the hospital) as the pay and benefits are much better and the hours are too usually. Search for programs that are CAMTS accredited and have a good name and clean safety record (no crashes) and who put money into their crews education and ongoing professional development. Do due diligence and make yourself the most attractive hire , by having as much clinical experience in ICU as possible, being a member of the Air and Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) , completing the courses that the program will require of you, before getting hired (Neonatal Resus Provider-NRP) and Transport Professional Advanced Trauma course (TPATC) and attend the medical transport speciality conferences such as CCTMC and AMTC where you will network with these people and potentially get a job offer. Read professional journals , listen to podcasts on critical care/ emergency medicine and stay up to date with evidence-based critical care literature and research. Best of luck! Blue Skies and Tail winds