How To Become A Flight Nurse – Requirements, Training, Certification

How to become a flight nurse

Nurses are one of the most common jobs in the healthcare industry, besides the regular registered nurse there are several other types of specialized nurses, including critical care nurses, emergency nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse managers, anesthetists, legal nurses, flight nurses, travel nurses and others.

A flight nurse is specialized to handle medical situations and deliver medical care to a patient suffering from illness or injury while in an aircraft of some sort. Some examples include helicopters, planes, jets, and more.  They are also part of the emergency flight response team, and usually work in a group of medical professionals including a physician, a flight medic, and respiratory practitioners.

They are usually the first to respond, with the flight paramedics, on the scene of an accident. They provide immediate and appropriate medical  assistance until the patient reaches the nearest healthcare facility to treat his or her ailments. Flight nurses can be accompanied on the aircraft with an emergency response crew. This is too provide additional medical support the patient if necessary.

There are two types of flight nursing, civilian and military, civilian nurses normally work for a hospital, municipal, state, private company, or the federal government. In order to become one, there are several requirements to qualify for this position.

How to become a flight nurse - flight nurse inside helicopter

Required Education

Since there isn’t such thing as flight nurse school, college nursing education is the foundation of your nursing career and the first of  all flight nurse requirements.

At the very minimum, you will need to be a registered nurse. In order to become a registered nurse, you would need to complete the appropriate program. Fortunately, there are several options available for people depending on cost, time, and personal needs.

After you’ve completed the high school, you can either attend an institution for a 2-year associate of science in nursing degree, 6-year master’s in nursing degree or a 4-year bachelor’s degree. For many, the most popular option is the 4-year bachelor’s degree since most flight nursing companies require or prefer this degree.

However, choosing a more advanced program like a master’s in nursing degree can allow you to qualify for more advanced positions which can prove to be worth the extra time spent on education.

After the nursing program is complete, they will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become an official registered nurse.

The basic requirement of completing a nursing degree allows for more freedom and flexibility since most specialized nursing positions require a basic nursing degree. In the event that you don’t enjoy the life of a flight nurse, you can use your degree and qualifications to choose another specialty. Something that many people take for granted.

The flight nurse education is sometimes extended to post-graduate training for individuals who wish to specialize in a specific type of nursing. Some examples include critical care nursing, neonatal nursing, occupational health nursing, and pediatric nursing.

Experience

For most flight nurse programs, the minimum requirements include 3 to 5 years of experience in a clinical setting, like emergency room (ER) or intensive care unit (ICU).

This amount of experience should ensure that future flight nurses develop critical thinking skills and get used to being exposed to the sickest of patients. Coping with high pressure and stress situations is something all nurses need to be able to handle.

As a registered nurse that wants to become a flight nurse, you should carefully plan your career in advance. Before getting a (first) job, it would be wise to consider the type of hospital or facility that you are going to work in.

If possible, get a job at a big hospital that already has a flight nursing crew, the opportunity to meet and talk with crew members can highly increase your chances to become one of them.

Nursing Bed

Certification

Although not required, critical care specialty certifications have been proven to be of tremendous help. Obtaining nationally recognized certifications is not only very helpful in getting a flight nurse job, but you will also learn so much more while studying for them.

Since they have to be renewed every three years, maintaining one or more of them will prove your willingness for continual education and ongoing professional development. These are the most relevant flight nurse certification programs:

Note that CFRN certification is usually obtained 1-2 years after getting the job, since the exam takers should have previous flight experience.

Additional Flight Nurse Training

Many hospitals and air-medical transport companies require or prefer their nurses to be trained in:

  • Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Air-Medical Crew National Standard Curriculum
  • Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC)
  • Pre-hospital Advanced Life Support (PHTLS)
  • Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Course (NRC)

Some companies will include an additional training requirement, a flight training course. The course generally provides information needed to be safe around aircraft. This is to ensure that you are familiar with the environment and you are able to use all available tools and resources.

Besides certification and training requirements, there are also physical requirements. Flight nurse qualifications are quite specific and will require nurses to be somewhat physically capable. You are constantly required to be in a rush for emergencies, a small delay can be the difference between someone’s life and death.

There are many benefits in flight nursing, however, there are also very strict requirements. The standards are quite high due to the nature of the job and the related duties.

In some scenarios, there will be an emergency requiring excellent clinical assessment skills, problems solving skills, and the ability to react appropriately in high stress situations.

This type of nurses play a crucial role in life and death situations where the lack of proper qualifications can result in patient’s death. Understanding how to become a flight nurse will ensure that you have chosen the right career path and that only the most dedicated and qualified individuals are dealing with emergency situations.

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