Want to Be a Flight Nurse? Where Do You Go to School?

If you’re an adrenaline junkie and considering nursing as a field then flight nurse might be on your career radar. What kind of chops does it take to climb into one of those cool jumpsuits and wing it out to some Level 1 Trauma accident or mini disaster?

Role of the Flight Nurse

RNs that make it onto a plane or rescue helicopter have earned some serious stripes in the Nursing Industry. These are not jobs open to new grads still wet behind the ears from nursing school. You might imagine the level of expertise and preparedness it could take to win a spot on a flight team….

Flight nurses are a sub-specialty of Trauma Nurse that take emergency care to the skies. It’s like a super-charged EMT but with even more aggressive patient care tactics. Flight crews are common at large trauma hospitals where flight teams rspond to accidents, disasters, and transport critically ill patients sometimes over hundreds of miles, or far beyond the ground an ambulance could respond to. The goal of each mission: to triage, stabilize and transport as many victims as possible to a medical center able to more adequately handle these types of incidents.

Nursing School Programs for Flight Nurses

Flight nursing, in and of itself, is not packaged into any formal nursing school degree. However there is a logical educational and professional track to follow in nursing that could put you squarely in contention for such a job should you prove the mettle.

First, most flight nurses are expected to earn an MSN or BSN at the least. Almost a requirement is experience in Emergency Nursing—ED or trauma unit. Critical Care nurses are often considered as well. In the ED you gain the know-how necessary to manage a constantly changing patient ebb and flow where a wide variety of mild conditions to life-threatening traumas can exist in tandem. In an ED RNs learn to sink or swim, to fly by the seat of their pants and make split-second life-changing decisions based on excellent nursing judgment and attention to patient care and safety.

If you can do this successfully for a few years then you may be ready to compete for a flight nurse job. “Compete,” is the operative term. Flight nurse job positions are limited and not available everywhere. Furthermore flight nurses are seriously committed to their jobs, so there is hardly a glut of openings. You’ll have to pursue a job at a large Level I or II trauma center most likely.

The key to landing a flight nurse job: the more advanced and trauma-targeted your training, the better.

Further Certification Requirements

You can help advance your qualifications with membership in the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and by opting to take the Certified Flight RN exam. Other possible certifications and qualifications include:

  • EMT certification
  • Various life support certifications—neonate, pediatric, geriatric, etc.
  • Disaster management certification

On the job training for Flight Nurses ensures new job candidates are skilled with specialized flight equipment and understand the scope of practice in this ultra-specialized environment. Prospective RN flight nurses may be required to complete in-flight clinical hours to meet job pre-requisites, as well.

Average salary for a flight RN is $66,000.

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