How To Become a Flight Nurse: Fasten Your Seatbelt for Lift-off!

Flight nurses are registered nurses (RNs) responsible for taking care of patients while aboard helicopters or airplanes en route to a medical facility where the patient will be treated.

Patients who need to be transported this way are usually trauma patients who are too badly injured that they have to be airlifted using an air ambulance.

These RNs are required to have advanced skills, such as use of endotracheal tube to help the patient breathe mechanically; external pacemakers and cardiac monitors for patients with cardiac conditions; administer drugs to manage pain; and provide critical care.

Get sick to your stomach while flying?

Flight nursing will most certainly bring you to high places.

If you have made a decision early on and want to learn how to become a flight nurse, take the direct route to becoming one, which involves going to nursing school and becoming a RN.

This means that you shouldn’t go flying around one program to another, so lets outline the steps required.

1. Complete high school or GED

Obtain a high school diploma or GED. Make sure you have high ACT or SAT rating.

The admission to nursing school is quite competitive, so make sure that you performed well in your science and math and have high GPA.

2. Decide which college or university to attend

Refer to your state’s nursing board for the approved nursing programs.

3. Take the necessary prerequisites

If you are fresh from high school, you will most probably need to take prerequisites before you can take the actual nursing curriculum.

Take this as opportunity to improve your chance of breezing through admissions.

If you have already earned some credit units prior to this, have you transfer records evaluated for possible crediting to your prerequisites or the RN curriculum.

4. Complete your associates or bachelors degree

Submit your application to the college or university. Refer and have all of your questions clarified by the college counselor.

Evaluate the cost, prerequisite courses, possible level of competition, performance of the school in the licensing exam, and the chance of its graduates to be employed by reputable employers.

5. Obtain a license

After completing your nursing program, you must take and pass the National Commission Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) to practice your new profession as a registered nurse. Inquire from your state’s nursing board about state-specific requirements.

6. Trauma experience counts

Experience as RN is necessary to become a flight nurse. This will familiarize you with the functions and standard operating procedures in the health care environment.

7. Undertake between 3 and 5 years of experience in critical care

Don’t be complacent after getting hired as RN.

Find and land a nursing job in an intensive care unit (ICU), emergency room (ER) or other critical health care settings because all flight nursing jobs require a minimum experience of 3 to 5 years trauma.

8. Take continuing education

To keep your RN license active, you should earn continuing education courses and obtain certificate programs that are associated with your specialty.

9. Comply with requirements

Depending on specifications required by the employer, a flight nurse may be required to have several the appropriate education and training, license, and certifications. Here are some of the typical requirements that an employer will specifically ask for:

a. Education, Training and Experience as RN

  • Completion of a BSN
  • RN license
  • 3 to 5 years of work experience as nurse in critical care department

b. Certifications

  • Neonatal Resuscitation
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • Mobile Intensive Care
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support Training
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • c. Specialty Certification
  • Certified Emergency Nurse
  • Certified Flight RN
  • Certification for Adult, Pediatric and Neonatal Critical Care
  • Advanced Trauma and Life Support courses

Of course, not all of the certifications and courses will be required by a potential employer. Inquire from your state’s nursing board and from potential employers for other requirements.

10. Get working

Finally, once you have completed all requirements, it would be high time to apply for the job.

What is it like working in this career?

Flight nurses usually are a part of an aeromedical team of paramedics, doctors, and respiratory practitioners.

They provide critical nursing care to patients in the air ambulance. They ensure that the patient is safe, comfortable, and provided with life-sustaining support.

Their responsibility starts when the patient is wheeled to the plane or helicopter, until the patient is endorsed to the receiving medical facility.

They also take charge of all preparations and planning related to the mission.

A flight RN’s job is not an easy one, but it is one job with many forms of reward.

It most certainly is one of the most economically rewarding fields of nursing.

Its best reward, however, comes in the fact that flight nurses have countless opportunities to save the lives of critically injured or seriously ill people.

These are patients who have the slimmest chance of surviving, and the time element is often very crucial.

A air ambulance RN who is equipped with training, skills and good judgment is often the patient’s only link to life.

Would you be interested in becoming that lifeline? If so, I hope you do and have learned how to become a flight nurse from this article.