How to Become a Flight Nurse

Updated on January 15, 2024

Flight nursing represents the intersection of aviation, emergency medicine, and intensive care. As a flight nurse, you would utilize finely honed clinical skills to provide lifesaving treatment and transportation for critically ill or injured patients in uniquely challenging airborne environments.

This specialty career path promises immense professional purpose and fulfillment for registered nurses who thrive under intense pressure in dynamic medical situations. Within compact aircraft subjected to turbulence and altitude changes, flight nurses must expertly attend to vulnerable patients who require swift emergency interventions and continuous en-route care at aviation speeds.

If you are an ambitious ICU nurse attracted to high-acuity crises and moved by the adrenaline rush of emergency care, becoming a certified flight nurse may be your perfect calling. This definitive guide illuminates the steps required to qualify for this decorated aviation medical role and take your acute care talents to soaring new heights.

What Does a Flight Nurse Do?

Flight nurses operate as part of compact crews aboard helicopters, turboprop planes, or jets, providing intensive en-route care, transferring injured/unstable patients between hospitals and accident scenes far from definitive treatment, or in natural disasters when roads become unusable.

Vital responsibilities during stressful transports include:

Succeeding means maintaining top-notch assessment and treatment capabilities even 30,000 feet away from ground resources.

Education Required for Flight Nurses

Specialization requirements beyond typical RN degrees include:

  1. Adult ICU Experience
    Flight nurses need at least two years as frontline intensivists skilled in recognizing micro symptoms foreshadowing organ failure and testing intervention impacts given autonomy when airborne.
  2. Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
    Certification demonstrating algorithmic knowledge guiding clinical teams as crew leaders resuscitating cardiac arrests and arranging urgent caths/transfers.
  3. Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
    Parallel certification in pediatric versions of airway/breathing/circulation analysis and pharmacologic treatment for young patient variability.
  4. Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC)
    Issued by Emergency Nurses Association upon completion of specialized adult/pediatric emergency assessment education fortifying trauma/shock capabilities.

Earning Credentials for Flight Nurses

The gold standard for validating flight nurse competencies comes through pursuing a Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) designation from the independent Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) available to 2+ year ICU veterans passing written, simulation, and clinical patient care exams.

Alternatives like the Flight RN (FRN) title from the industry group Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) carry similar weight for those meeting flight hour minimums through military service, for example, here.

Finding a Flight Nurse Position

RN licensees can seek flight nurse roles through:

Beyond exceptional bedside talents, ideal candidates for limited openings boast pre-hospital care exposure through ground ambulances, ideally in lead care roles. Willingness to operate across wide geographical regions also expands options.

Core In-Flight Responsibilities

Once attaining flight nurse titles, intensive duties unfold as soon as emergent cases appear include:

Succeeding means staying laser-focused on patients despite the incredible backdrop views and sensations of slicing through skies toward those in need.

Projected Growth and Salaries

Per recent Bureau of Labor Statistics classifications, the flight nurse occupation falls under broader registered nursing job growth projections of about 9 percent nationally through 2031 amidst swelling elderly populations and healthcare system expansions. Compensation typically falls in the $75,000-$100,000 range, accounting for extensive on-call commitments.

In summary, flight nursing promises boundless adventure and fulfillment, saving patients’ lives when time becomes the enemy and ground transport is impossible or delayed. Meet the unmatched need today for aviation medical care through ICU upskilling, nationally recognized certifications, and passion for emergency responses on the move.