How to become a flight nurse is discussed in the following article. Read to find out the lesser known details about becoming a flight nurse.

How To Become A Flight Nurse

A flight nurse is referred to as a registered nurse who carries out comprehensive pre-hospital, emergency or critical nursing care during a flight to various types of patients either on a helicopter, propeller or even a jet aircraft. There arises a need to airlift critically ill patients in remote areas or at disaster sites such as those hit by earthquakes, tornadoes or even tsunamis! Flight nurses are usually part of the emergency medical teams that respond to such situations and treat or care for the patient in-flight. With this job one associates adrenalin rush and high level trauma but the satisfaction and the relief on saving human lives is always priceless. Read the next section if you are interested in becoming a flight nurse.
Becoming A Flight Nurse
Individuals seeking this career must have a 4-year Bachelor’s degree of Science in Nursing after their 10+2 in medical field. A master’s degree is considered good for better career prospects. Some community colleges also offer associate degrees in nursing which take only 2-3 years to complete. However, the shortest path to nursing is through hospital diploma plans which offer on-the-job training under the apprenticeship of professional nurses. Once the studies are done, one has to take up a licensure exam in order to become accredited as a professional nurse. But this is not it – even after the certification, one must work for 3-5 years in an intensive care unit or emergency department before being eligible for flight nursing duty.
Courses Required
  • A certification on Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS), Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS) and/or Pre Hospital Life Support (PHLS) is considered an added advantage.
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) or Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course (ENPC) or Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) and Trauma Nurse Core Curriculum help you become a Trauma Nurse Specialist or TNS.
  • Moreover, flight nurses must also be trained in field skills such as rapid sequence oral intubation, placement of surgical airways, etc.
  • A basic life support (BLS) or an intermediate life support (ILS) is also mandatory for an emergency medical technician (EMT) or a registered nurse (RN). 
Skills Required
  • Excellent clinical and patient assessment skills
  • Ability to make independent decisions
  • Problem solving skills
  • Good physical strength, fitness, stamina and agility to perform duties under adverse conditions
  • Keen knowledge, experience and understanding of the health-related emergencies
  • Ability to impart comfort and care to the patient while on board.
  • Dedication and passion because this is a round-the-clock and available-at-short-notice kind of job
  • Excellent stress handling and ability to perform well in traumatic situations is another basic requirement
  • Knowledge of a few foreign languages is an added benefit and having a valid passport is a must
  • Last, but not the least, one mustn’t be phobic of heights in order to be a flight nurse!
Roles And Responsibilities
  • Before embarking on a flight, a nurse is expected to review the patient’s medical records and consult with the attending physician to obtain better understanding.
  • A flight nurse determines the patient’s in-flight needs and the necessary medications, supplies and equipments like oxygen tank, IV medications, supplements, oral medication and airway management equipment, etc.
  • In in-flight emergencies, flight nurses may also initiate treatments in the absence of a physician.
  • Once the aircraft lands, the patient reaches the medical care facility and the flight nurse updates the doctors regarding the medical problems encountered during the flight or atmospheric anomalies that may have affected the patient’s status and hands over all the patient’s records and documents.
  • A flight nurse is customarily required to restock the medications or supplies used during the flight. From cleaning and sterilizing equipments to reporting equipment problems before the next medical flight is scheduled, are all duties of a flight nurse.
Career Prospects
A career as a flight nurse can get you employed in large airlines, military services or even for organisations that provide nurses for sick individuals for their flight trips. Flight nurses later retire to ground duty take up administrative roles. They can also, with sufficient support, start specialty services of providing qualified nurses for private airlines and smaller aircrafts.
This kind of a fast paced, adventure filled and off beat career is highly rewarding and fulfilling. But before you step into this field, make sure that this is what you want.

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