Being a flight nurse is an exciting way to use your nursing degree. Flight nurses serve in medical air evacuation s to treat patients at distant sites and fly with them back to the hospital or medical facility where they will be treated. Because of the complexities of doing triage and making treatment decisions while in the air, this is not a specialty for the faint of heart!
What is a Flight Nurse?
Flight nurses are Registered Nurses who provide paramedic, emergency, and critical nursing care to patients during medical evacuation and rescue operations in various kinds of aircraft. They often work in collaboration with flight paramedics in providing continuous care for patients. Flight nursing is a subspecialty of trauma or emergency care and requires the same set of skills. Flight nurse training is extensive and requires far more preparation than emergency nursing, as well as significant amounts of experience.
Flight nurse training begins in nursing school. The medical transport and evacuation companies that employ flight nurses only consider Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners. The RN designation can be earned by going to an accredited nursing school, which can be a 2-year community college program or a 4-year university program. Flight nurses are better off getting their Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) because it leaves them with the option of getting a Master?s degree in nursing (MSN), which is required to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Potential flight nurses should consider working for a large Trauma I or Trauma II-level hospital to continue their flight nurse training. Working in the Emergency Department and Critical Care or Intensive Care Units will allow them to get used to the fast-paced work required in flight nursing. It will also give them the opportunity to learn how to balance cases, treat multiple patients at once, and make quick and accurate diagnostic decisions. In addition, many of these trauma centers have flight teams, so it may be easier to get a flight nurse job.
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There are a number of flight nurse training courses available to nurses to further their careers. The National Flight Nurse Academy in Cleveland, Ohio, is one institution that offers training for flight nurses. Part of the Case Western Reserve University Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing, this program trains acute care nurse practitioners to be flight nurses, conducts an annual summer camp for interdisciplinary disaster-response training, and does research on air medical services.
Other Training Types
There are a number of certifications that are a part of flight nurse training. These include accreditation by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing as a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse, or Certified Flight Registered Nurse. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses offers a Certified Critical Care Registered Nurse endorsement that may be useful. Becoming an EMT and being certified in life support procedures as well as trauma care by taking classes is also important to flight nurse training.
Being a flight nurse is highly demanding, both in terms of knowledge and physically. If you think you might be interested in this rewarding career, make sure that you know how to outfit yourself with the skills you need to be a good employee!