What are the Requirements to Become a Flight Nurse?
Flight nursing is a physically demanding nursing specialty that requires nurses to complete a wide range of tasks including emergency assessment and treatment, triage, and critical care. This means that a flight nurse must be experienced, confident, and good at thinking on his or her feet. If this sounds like you, you should look into the flight nurse requirements to see if the job is right for you.
Registered Nurses Only
The first level of flight nurse requirements is becoming a Registered Nurse. This can be accomplished in three ways: through a 2-year Associate’s degree program, through a 3-year hospital diploma program, or through a 4-year Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Many air medical businesses prefer that their flight nurses get the BSN or even a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). Once a candidate has completed their nursing program, they must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is the licensing exam.
Most air medical businesses expect nurses to have at least 2 to 5 years of experience in emergency or critical care units, and the more trauma experience, the better. This means nurses that have a proven ability to manage multiple patients with vastly different conditions, as well as being able to make split-second decisions about patient care with maximum attention to patient care and safety. A flight nurse may have to tend to multiple critical cases all at once, so it is important that he or she have the skills to cope.
Certifications and Additional Training
While being an RN is the most basic of the flight nurse requirements, there are a number of other certifications that may be recommended or required for getting a job as a flight nurse. Being certified as a paramedic or EMT is often required, as are training courses in Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), the Trauma Nurse Core Course, and others. In addition, a lot of companies like flight nurses to have certifications like Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) or the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN), given by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.
Another of the flight nurse requirements is being physically fit. Being a flight nurse can be a very demanding job, because they are expected to get to wherever the patient is as quickly as possible, often while carrying heavy equipment. This can include sliding down into ravines, fording rivers, or climbing up steep inclines. They may also be required to help carry patients back to their helicopter and load them. Finally, flight nurses may have 24-hour shifts and therefore need to have good stamina to remain effective for the full 24 hours.
Companies that employ flight nurses will usually add one more to the list of flight nurse requirements: a flight training course. Because most nurses have not been trained to work on aircraft, there is usually a basic safety course to teach them how to be safe in and around them. This may include ride-alongs and other sorts of training activities to get the new flight nurses used to the environment. In addition, flight nurses must work closely as a part of a treatment team, so they may be required to undergo team building activities.
Being a flight nurse is demanding both physically and intellectually. Nurses have to think on their feet and have a wealth of information in their heads so that they can treat patients quickly and appropriately. If this sounds good to you, consider becoming a flight nurse!