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Do You Have What It Takes to Fly? The Role of a Flight Nurse

  • Looking for an adrenaline-pumping nursing opportunity? Look no further!
  • A flight nurse plays a crucial role in ensuring a patient’s safety and stability as they transport them from one location to the next.
  • Did I mention they do this from thousands of feet up above the ground? Check it out!
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership

June 24, 2021
Simmons University

Have you ever thought about becoming a flight nurse?  

Are you interested in the idea of it, or the adrenaline rush that it might bring helping people at their most critical moments?

Do you have what it takes to be a flight nurse? Let’s find out!

What is a Flight Nurse?

Trusted online nursing community, EveryNurse, defines a flight nurse as, “a nursing professional that is trained to provide medical care to patients while they are transported to a medical facility.” 

Typically, there are two routes you can take as a flight nurse: civilian or military, but we’ll get into this later. 

If you are interested in providing hands-on emergent care to trauma patients, pushing through the adrenaline rush of flying in an aircraft, and ensuring the safety and stability of your patient as you quickly travel from one location to the next, then a flight nurse sounds like the profession for you! 

What is Their Role?

Remember the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles? For a flight nurse, it’s more like planes, helicopters, and jets!  

All these methods of transportation are utilized by healthcare professionals in order to transport patients from a wreckage, disaster, or other facility. 

Flight nurses are responsible for: 

  • Checking vitals  
  • Tracking records 
  • Medication administration 
  • Intubation (some cases)  
  • Performing medical procedures  

Although this is not an all-encompassing list, it gives you an idea of what the role entails.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, if a physician is not on board, flight nurses have the scope of practice to perform intubation, insertion of chest tubes, and other advanced procedures that RNs normally wouldn’t get to do in a hospital setting!  

How awesome is that?! 

On top of this, a flight nurse must ensure that there is both appropriate and sufficient quantities of medical equipment on board to care for the critically-ill patient upon arrival.

Think of a flight nurse as an ICU nurse in a more emergent situation and with less access to resources, while flying thousands of feet above the ground — no big deal.

 

What Are the Requirements?

Reputable registered nursing job community, RegisteredNursing.org, outlines the various requirements you will need to meet in order to pursue a career as a flight nurse. Check them out! 

  • Pass NCLEX-RN certification examination 
  • Minimum of 5 years of experience in ICU/ED/Trauma 
  • BLS, ACLS, PALS  
  • CEN, CCRN, OR CFRN  

Depending on your future employer, a few additional certifications/credentials may be required, so be sure to do your research! 

If you are interested in the military route, all the requirements above are the same; however, you will also have to successfully complete five and a half weeks of officer training.  

What is the Salary Like?

Of course, there are several factors that determine an average salary including the demand for the position, geographic location, the cost of living, and more, but Salary.com outlines that the average flight nurse salary is roughly $20,000 more than the average RN! 

Based on these numbers, a flight nurse can make anywhere from $68-107K per year; wow!

Flight nurses are vital members of the healthcare team that ensure that patients are stabilized enough to be transported to the next facility and receive additional care upon arrival.  

Do you think you have what it takes?   

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