Flight Nursing for Dummies: An Ultimate Guide

how to become a flight nurse

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Have you ever considered applying your nursing skills in an aerial setting?

Do you love the thrill of riding a helicopter?

If your answer to above questions is YES, then flight nursing may be an excellent career path for you.

By definition, flight nursing is a type of specialty that requires advanced skills. For a registered nurse to qualify, he or she needs to acquire extensive experience in trauma care. This is because flight nurses handle critical patients who need to be transported to a medical facility via an aircraft.

In addition to that, aspiring flight nurses are also required to receive advanced certifications. And because they mostly work in aerial settings, it is also imperative for flight nurses to be familiar with flight regulations and other safety practices.

Compared to nurse anesthetists, flight nurses receive a moderately high compensation package. Still, their income exceed what typical registered nurses receive.

On the other hand, the demands for flight nurses continually grow. After an average of 3 years spent in consolidation, in-flight nurses are usually endorsed for work either to commercial companies (e.g. air ambulance companies) or military bases.

Flight nursing is both challenging and rewarding. But without preparation, potential candidates may crash and burn during the actual work. To make sure that flight nursing is the right career choice for you, we’ve listed down all the essential information you need to know.

The 5-Step Guide on How to Become a Flight Nurse

The processes involved in acquiring a flight nurse certification may vary across different regions. Nevertheless, here are five basic steps that a candidate needs to take in order to become a full-fledged flight nurse:

Step 1: Earn a high school diploma.

Just like in any field, a high school diploma or GED is inherent in earning a Nursing diploma. This is also a fine time to review if your skills and interests suit the Nursing profession. To increase your chances of entering a Nursing program, ensure that you maintain high grades and acquire all the necessary prerequisites.

Step 2: Finish a four-year Nursing program.

A Bachelor’s degree in Nursing is required to become eligible to take the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse. During the course of your study, it is suggested that you specialize in Critical Care Nursing. Special emphasis must also be given in areas of acute mental health, midwifery, and pediatrics. Once completed, this program will give you the basic competencies required to become a flight nurse.

Step 3: Become a registered nurse (RN).

In order to become an RN, all Nursing graduates are required to take and pass the national licensing exam also known as NCLEX-RN. The questions are a bit tricky so make sure you review ahead. There are also available resources and reviewers you can purchase to increase your chances of passing the exam.

Step 4: Acquire relevant experience and advanced certifications.

Flight nursing is a delicate field where nurses usually deal with trauma patients. For this reason, most institutions require candidates to spend at least 2 to 5 years in critical care areas such as emergency rooms and intensive care units.

In addition to that, aspiring flight nurses are also suggested to take as much certifications as possible. These must be relevant to flight nursing practice and may include the following:

  • Basic Life Support Certification.
  • Neonatal Resuscitation.
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
  • Certified Emergency Nurse.
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse.
  • Trauma Life Support.
  • EMS Certification/Licence.
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support.
  • CPR Certification.

Some employers also require nurses to take the Trauma Nursing Core Course. This training program is designed to provide the nurse with the knowledge and skills needed to handle trauma patients.

Step 5: Apply for a flight nurse position.

After acquiring the required number of experience and certifications, aspiring flight nurses can now explore different employment opportunities.

Most in-flight nurses are hired to work either in military facilities or commercial companies. Different institutions may request for specific requirements/certifications so make sure you contact your potential employer beforehand to avoid any inconvenience.

Flight Nursing: Average Salary and Hourly Rate

On average, flight nursing salary is relatively higher compared to nursing generalists. This is quite reasonable given the high demands of the job and the responsibilities required of the flight nurses.

Although the annual income may vary across different regions, it is estimated that flight nurses usually receive a salary range of $66,000 up to $78,000.

flight nursing salary
Average Flight Nurse Salary (Source: PayScale)

As of September 3, 2o13, PayScale estimates the median flight nurse salary to be $62, 817. The hourly rate, on the other hand, typically falls between $23.46 and $43.62. Again the rate may vary according to a flight nurses’s experience and the geographical region where he or she practices.

flight nurse salary
Flight Nursing Hourly Rate (Source: PayScale)

Employment Outlook for Flight Nurses

Although flight nursing can be very demanding physically and mentally, the attrition rate is surprisingly low. An average of  5% turnover was recorder prior to 2010–a positive sign that this special field is highly rewarding.

Most flight nurses are sought-after to work in different branches of the military although a number of commercial companies (e.g. ‘assistance’ or ‘air ambulance’ companies) also seek their services.

Flight nurses enjoy the thrill of flying while enjoying the fulfillment of taking care of their patients. If the above information has made you more excited, then a career in flight nursing might be you ticket to long-term success.

Flight Nursing Recommended Resources

Do you want to explore flight nursing more? This list of helpful books and resources should definitely help you grasp the basics and even increase your chances of passing the flight nursing certification exam:

ASTNA Patient Transport: Principles and Practice, 4e (Air & Surface Patient Transport: Principles and Practice)

Flight Nursing: Principles and Practice, 2e

Mosby’s Emergency and Flight Nursing Review

Operation Flight Nurse: Real-Life Medical Emergencies