By Karen Edmondson
Updated: February 12, 2022
Flight Nurse Overview
- What You Will Do:Provide urgent care for patients during transportation flights, either in helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.
- Where Will You Work:Flight nurses may work either for civilian agencies, such as hospitals or trauma centers, or with all branches of the military.
- Employment Projections:Nursing is expected to be the fastest-growing professions, with growth projected at 16% – 23%; employment outlook for flight nurses is excellent
- How Much Will I Earn:The average annual salary for flight nurses ranges from $54,000 to $103,000, with an average of $74,430.
- Requirements to Become One:Become an RN; obtain 2 – 5 years experience in trauma, emergency or intensive care nursing; obtain related specialty certificate training, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS); obtain Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) credential.
Online Nursing Programs That Might Interest You
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
How-To Become a Flight Nurse in Five Steps
Earn Your RN
You must earn an RN degree from an accredited nursing program; It is important to note that most employers require a minimum of a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.
Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam
All RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure to practice nursing.
Specialize in Emergency, Trauma or ICU Nursing
You must have a minimum of 2 years professional nursing experience in an emergency department, intensive care unit or trauma unit before you can apply for certification as a flight nurse.
Employers prefer flight nurses have several certifications, such as, in part, basic life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
Obtain Certified Flight Registered Nurse Credential
Obtain this certification from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.
What is a Flight Nurse?
A flight transport nurse is specially trained to provide patient care during transportation via rotor (helicopter) or fixed-wing aircraft. Flight nurses provide comprehensive pre-hospital emergency trauma care, as from the scene of a motor vehicle crash, and hospital-level intensive care, as when transporting patients from one hospital to another. Flight nurses are integral members of an interdisciplinary flight team including flight medics, physicians and other health care professionals. Flight teams respond to disasters and emergency scenes, and transport critically ill patients beyond the range of ground transport. The flight nurse may be called upon to assist pilots with duties such as navigation or radio communications. Of course, the first priority is to the patient, and the goal of each mission is to assess, triage, stabilize and transport as many patients as possible to a medical trauma center able to provide optimal care for victims of such incidents. The flight nurse acts to document and track patients’ condition, provide care before and during transport, maintain all crew safety procedures, coordinate and supervise patient care assistants if needed, provide first aid if needed, and acquire and operate specialized equipment such as ventilators, infusion pumps, and monitors. At the beginning of transport, the flight nurse assists with onboarding patients, and safely securing them during the flight. On arrival at the destination, the flight nurse offloads patients and provides hand-off briefings for receiving staff.
How Do I Become a Flight Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a flight nurse is to become a Registered Nurse, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. After graduation, you must obtain RN licensure by taking the NCLEX-RN examination in your state. Once you have achieved licensure, you will need to work a minimum of 2 -5 years as a staff nurse in an emergency department, intensive care unit, or trauma unit. Related specialty certificates needed include:
- Basic Life Support (BLS)
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
Additional certifications that may be required include:
- Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN)
- Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC)
- Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) or Critical Care Nurse (CCRN)
- PHTLS (National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians Pre-Hospital Trauma Life support
- ITLS (International Trauma Life Support)
- Emergency Medical Technician EMT licensure/certification
- Neonatal Advanced Life Support (NALS) or Neonatal Life Support (NLS)
- Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses
- Advanced Trauma Life Support
- Advanced Burn Life Support
- Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems
- Hazardous material training, such as
- HAZMAT Chemical/Dangerous Goods training
- OSHA Hazardous Materials Awareness Certification
- National Incident Management System – FEMA training
Finally, you must sit for the Certified Flight Registered Nurse Exam, from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, to become a Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN). Certification is valid for 4 years, after which it must be renewed by showing participation in approved continuing education programs. If this is not possible, the certification exam must be retaken.
Some employers may prefer, or even require a Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN) for flight nurses, with a focus on trauma/emergency nursing.
Where Do Flight Nurses Typically Work?
In the civilian venue, flight nurses typically work for hospitals or private medical transport agencies. They may also work for search and rescue organizations, fire departments, or federal government agencies. Flight nurses are active in each branch of the military, including reserves and national guard; U.S Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Army MEDEVAC flight nurses, Air National Guard, National Guard Army Medical Department, and USAF, Navy and Army reserve units. Military flight nurses are often deployed to support active duty troops in foreign countries.
How Much Do Flight Nurses Earn?
Nursing, in general, is identified as one of the fastest growing professions in the US in terms of salary, with a projected growth of 16%+, much higher than the national average. Specialty certification can increase earnings significantly; Payscale.com quotes a median average salary of $74,430. annually, with a range of $54,000 – $103,000 for Certified Flight Registered Nurses. This is dependent on the job, and the geographical area. Salaries are generally higher in urban areas, however, the cost of living is typically higher, as well. In addition, bachelor’s prepared nurses tend to earn higher salaries than nurses with associate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the top five states for general nursing salaries are with a range or $53,410 to $116,230 at the lowest and highest 10%)
Flight Nurse Programs
At the undergraduate level, nursing programs do not address flight nursing within the curriculum. As a professional nurse, the nurse aspiring to become a flight nurse will need to pursue related specialty certificates, as previously listed. The Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC), from the Air and Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) is available online, or in workshop venues throughout the country.
At the graduate level, flight nursing is structured within Acute Care Nurse Practitioner programs. A program that specifically addresses flight nursing is:
- Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Dorothy Ebersbach Center for Flight Nursing; Cleveland, OH.https://case.edu/nursing/programs/msn/msn-majors/adult-gerontology-acute-care-nurse-practitioner/acute-care-nurse-practitioner-flight
Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner programs include, in part;
- Duke University School of Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care. Durham, NC.https://nursing.duke.edu/academic-programs/msn-master-science-nursing/adult-gerontology-nurse-practitioner-acute-care
- University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Philadelphia, PA.https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/adult-gerontology/adult-gerontology-acute-care-nurse-practitioner/
- Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Baltimore, MD.https://nursing.jhu.edu/academics/programs/masters/nurse-practitioner/adult-acute/index.html
- Vanderbilt University, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Nashville, TN.https://nursing.vanderbilt.edu/msn/agacnp/index.php
- Emory University, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Atlanta, GA.http://www.nursing.emory.edu/admission-and-aid/msn-programs/adult-gero-acute-care.html
- Loyola University, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Chicago, IL.https://www.luc.edu/nursing/msn/np/
- University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practioner. Cincinnati, OH.https://nursing.uc.edu/academic-programs/msn.html
What is a Typical Flight Nursing Curriculum?
Topics covered in the Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC):
- Transport Physiology
- Neurological Trauma
- Thoracic and Abdominal Trauma
- Trauma in Pregnancy
- Pediatric Trauma
- Legal Aspects of Transport
- Trauma Due to Burns
- Airway and Ventilatory Management
- Crisis Management
- Clinical skills – chest and c-spine x-ray interpretation, airway management, invasive procedures, and patient assessment.
The Flight Nursing Program at Case Western includes the following flight specialty courses in addition to the Acute Care curriculum:
- Critical Care Transport
- Emergent Care of Children
- Advanced Internship in Flight Nursing
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care programs focus on topics including;
- Advanced physiology/pathophysiology
- Advanced management of acutely ill adults
- Advanced pharmacology
- Mental health issues
- Advanced skin and wound management
- Palliative care
- Leadership and business
The Role of the Flight Nurse in the Nursing Shortage
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that employment for nurses will increase at a rate of 16% by 2024. There is a national shortage of nurses in general related to the Baby Boomer population entering retirement, and the increased health needs of the growing aging population. It is projected that the South and West will be hardest hit by the nursing shortage. The 12 states expected to have the most acute shortages are; Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico.
In terms of flight nursing, traumatic injuries are expected to increase, which will increase the demand for flight transport and flight nurses. Although there is not a great amount of turnover in this type job, new private organizations are opening, and are actively recruiting flight nurses.
Flight Nurse Resources
- Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association –https://www.astna.org/
- Association of Air Medical Services –http://aams.org/
- Air Medical Journal –airmedicaljournal.com
- Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing –https://bcen.org/
- Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association –https://www.astna.org/
- Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing –https://www.bcencertifications.org/Home
- EveryNurse.org –https://everynurse.org/
- Nurse.org –https://nurse.org/
- Nurse Theory –https://www.nursetheory.com
- Payscale.com –
- US Department of Labor; Bureau of Labor Statistics –https://www.bls.gov/
Take the next step toward your healthcare future with online learning.Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.
Karen is a Registered Nurse, graduating with a BSN in nursing in 1972 from North Park College in Chicago, Illinois. Her graduate degree was earned at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, in 1985. While her major clinical area specialty has been maternal/infant, pediatrics nursing, and women’s health, she has also worked in med-surg and adult ICU environments. She have 22 years’ experience in a faculty role, the past 7 years in an online venue.
Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.
Flight nurses ensure patients are stabilised and prepared for transfer, and respond to any medical emergencies during the flight, while providing reassurance and comfort to the patient and their family. I work on fixed-wing planes for an emergency retrieval service, moving patients from one hospital to another.How do I become an air ambulance nurse? ›
The requirements are listed as follows: Earn a Nursing Degree: Before specializing as an air ambulance nurse, you must first become a licensed registered nurse (RN). You can achieve this by completing a BSN program or a 2-year AND. You must then pass your NCLEX-RN to become licensed.What is a trauma flight nurse? ›
Trauma Nurses specialize in treating and diagnosing traumatic injuries or illnesses that put their patient's bodies and lives at immediate risk of physical duress. The word “trauma” refers to a disturbing or distressing experience.How long does it take to be a flight nurse? ›
How long does it take to become a flight nurse? It can take anywhere from 5-12 years to become a flight nurse. Some can become a flight nurse in five years with an ADN and three years of experience. However, because of the intense nature of the job, it usually takes more preparation to enter this career.What is a pilot nurse? ›
Definitions. A flight nurse, as the title implies, takes to the skies in a helicopter or other aircraft along with a pilot and often a paramedic. These nurses work with the team to respond to calls; some calls involve trauma, such as car accidents, while others are less dramatic, such as transfers between hospitals.How much do you have to weigh to be a flight nurse? ›
Is there a weight limit for flight nurses? Yes, most programs require that flight nurses weigh 250 pounds or less.How do you become a helicopter nurse? ›
- Minimum 3 years current critical care experience.
- State RN license (Must have license for states served)
- BLS (Basic Life Support for Health Care Providers.
- ACLS (American Heart Association Advanced Cardiac Life Support)
- PALS (American Heart Association Pediatric Advanced Life Support)
Air ambulance services are intended for people who are too ill to travel long distances by ground. Typically anyone who needs to travel more than 250 miles that needs special medical care is who will most benefit from air ambulance services.Is it hard to become a trauma nurse? ›
Trauma nursing is one of the hardest specialties in nursing because it is fast-paced and constantly dealing with life and death situations. Trauma nurses will typically work in large hospitals and respond to traumas that come to the Emergency Room from gunshots, car accidents, stabbings, overdosing, etc.Is trauma nurse the same as ER nurse? ›
Typically, ER Nurses care for ill or sick patients. Trauma Registered Nurses, on the other hand, deal with patients for whom “ill” is an understatement of their condition. These are patients who had to be rushed into the ER with serious wounds and injuries. They are in need of serious and urgent medical attention.
In flight nursing, you have the same capabilities as you would in an ICU. Flight nurses can intubate, do rapid sequence intubation and put in chest tubes. When we aren't on a call, we are usually studying or working on continuing education.Do flight nurses fly the helicopter? ›
Flight nurses take the responsibilities of an RN to new heights—literally. They are the ones on board the jet or helicopter, taking care of patients as they fly. Flight nurses are responsible for checking vitals, keeping records, administering medication, performing medical procedures, and more.How do you become a space nurse? ›
Training requirements may vary but generally aerospace nursing requires completion of an accredited nursing Bachelor's degree and training in flight nursing program. Those who are interested may acquire certification trainings in basic, cardiac, and pediatric advanced life support.How many days do flight nurses work weekly? ›
The flight nurse and paramedic work two 24-hours shifts each week.Can nurses be flight attendants? ›
As in the case with Flying Angels, the best NEMT companies employ flight nurses who are registered nurses who have graduated from accredited nursing programs and obtained their RN license. They also have experience in critical care and emergency medical situations and are trained in flight physiology.What's the difference between flight medic and flight nurse? ›
The main difference between the two is that flight medics are trained medical personnel who are responsible for the medical care of patients. In contrast, flight nurses are registered nurses who have additional training in aviation medicine.Is there a height limit for flight nurse? ›
As a result, even if they're qualified, they may not get the position due to their height. To illustrate, STATMedEvac has a height limit of 6'2″ for full-time and causal flight paramedics. The best way to determine whether you qualify for a position is to contact the hospital or transport company.Is there a height requirement for nursing? ›
The applicant should not have any severe physical malformity. Height of at least five feet. Form 138. Pass the Personal Interview.Can ICU nurses intubate? ›
Some ICU nurses may intubate, depending on their training, state regulations, and facility policies. There are typically more rules about the scope of practice for nurses in the ICU compared to other settings.How many flight nurses are there in the US? ›
Across the U.S. and around the globe, over 4,700 flight nurses holding BCEN®'s Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) credential play a leading role in delivering essential advanced care with unparalleled clinical excellence while thousands of feet in the air.
Your designated Rescue Nurse will then travel to wherever you are—whether it's to your hospital bed or even your hotel room—to get acquainted and perform one last physical assessment. Before you depart, the Rescue Nurse will make sure to take their duty rest, which is a mandated break in between flights.What do Air Force flight nurses do? ›
Provide inflight management and nursing care for patients from originating location to destination facility. Supervise enplaning, securing and deplaning of patients. Act as liaison between medical and operational aircrews and support personnel. Provide emergency care and treatment in the absence of a physician.Can you fly someone in a coma? ›
Because most air ambulances can be fitted with intensive care equipment, they are used to safely transport patients in a coma or patients who have suffered a stroke or heart attack. The patient's well-being is the highest priority on all flights, and every flight is planned meticulously.How much does a life flight cost without insurance? ›
What Is The Cost Of Life Flight Without Insurance? Without insurance coverage or additional membership in an air ambulance organization, the out of pocket cost for a “life flight” (also called a MedEvac) can range from $12,000 to $25,000 on average per NAIC (National Association Of Insurance Commissioners).How fast do air ambulances fly? ›
We normally cruise between 120-130kts to get to the emergency scene, that's the equivalent of around 150mph, meaning we'll cover more than 2 miles a minute.What jobs are nurses the happiest? ›
- School Nurse. Nurses in schools are available to help care for students who are presenting with an illness or who require assistance with medication administration for a previously diagnosed condition. ...
- Labor and Delivery Nurse. ...
- Case Management Nurse. ...
- Nurse Educator. ...
- Parish Nurse. ...
- Travel Nurse.
- Pharmaceutical RN - $83,486. Pharmaceutical RN's earn an average salary of $83,486. ...
- Nurse Informatics - $77,791. Nurse Informaticists earn an average salary of $77,791. ...
- Nurse Case Managers - $71,772. ...
- Nurse Administrators - $65,000 - $100,000.
Can Nurses Make Six Figures? Yes, you can 100% make six figures as a nurse. The disclaimer is that working in some states may make this easier than working in other states. Geographic location is a huge indicator of starting salary and can be a reason why some of you are not as close to others when looking at raw data.What are trauma nurses called? ›
Trauma certified registered nurses (TCRNs) are at the forefront of dealing with these critical or life-threatening injuries. They are the ones that work as first responders in emergency departments, often in tandem with emergency transport teams, to help save lives and care for victims.How do I train to be a trauma nurse? ›
- Complete a registered nursing program. ...
- Complete the necessary work experience. ...
- Complete trauma nursing courses. ...
- Register with the NMC. ...
- Apply for trauma nurse positions. ...
- Earn additional certifications.
An ER nurse can expect to work between 40 hours and 60+ hours per week or every day for months due to high demand. They spend most of their time on the ER floor, where they also have to be available for emergencies at any moment and occasionally need to stay overnight for a shift if necessary.Why is ICU nursing so hard? ›
The life of a critical care nurse, or intensive care unit (ICU) nurse, can be incredibly challenging. ICU nursing jobs require both emotional and physical stamina, and the ability to juggle different variables as they relate to the condition of critically ill patients.Can trauma nurses intubate? ›
It depends. In every state, nurses are guided by a scope of practice that dictates their practices and duties. Some states allow trauma nurses to intubate patients if they have received the appropriate training and/or the hospital or facility maintains a written policy relating to intubation.What skills do you need to be a trauma nurse? ›
Trauma nurses must also be skilled at a variety of nursing tasks, from starting IVs, to monitoring heart rhythms, to recognizing changes in a patient's acuity (how severe the patient's illness/injury is) and intervening as appropriate. They must be competent, empathetic, resilient, decisive and dedicated.Can nurses be flight attendants? ›
As in the case with Flying Angels, the best NEMT companies employ flight nurses who are registered nurses who have graduated from accredited nursing programs and obtained their RN license. They also have experience in critical care and emergency medical situations and are trained in flight physiology.How often do flight nurses work? ›
How many hours do flight nurses work? This depends on where they work, but they can work 24 hr shifts and work 6 to 8 shifts a month.How do you become a space nurse? ›
Training requirements may vary but generally aerospace nursing requires completion of an accredited nursing Bachelor's degree and training in flight nursing program. Those who are interested may acquire certification trainings in basic, cardiac, and pediatric advanced life support.How much do you have to weigh to be a flight nurse? ›
Yes, to be a flight nurse, you have to weigh 250 pounds or less. This might not seem like it can legally be a job requirement, but it is. Medical transport vehicles have limited space, and they have weight limits. For optimal safety and efficiency in flight, a weight limit is necessary.Do nurses or flight attendants make more money? ›
Nursing is seen to be better since it pays more than Flight Attendants and has more career options. Being a nurse is more challenging than being a flight attendant due to higher academic requirements.Do flight nurses fly the helicopter? ›
Flight nurses take the responsibilities of an RN to new heights—literally. They are the ones on board the jet or helicopter, taking care of patients as they fly. Flight nurses are responsible for checking vitals, keeping records, administering medication, performing medical procedures, and more.
It's clear from their job title that travel nurses travel for work, but how far do travel nurses travel for work, really? The short answer is that travel nurses can travel anywhere from 50 miles to 1,000 miles or more from their home.Can flight nurses intubate? ›
In flight nursing, you have the same capabilities as you would in an ICU. Flight nurses can intubate, do rapid sequence intubation and put in chest tubes. When we aren't on a call, we are usually studying or working on continuing education.How many shifts a week do flight nurses work? ›
The flight nurse and paramedic work two 24-hours shifts each week.Does NASA hire RNS? ›
How to Become a NASA Nurse. The first step toward becoming a NASA nurse is obviously to become an RN. To become an RN, you have to graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board - either a bachelor's or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN.Does SpaceX hire registered nurses? ›
The hired nurses will become members of a contractor team SpaceX works with. The 'Space Operation Nurses' will participate in research for operational missions, which involves learning tasks to assist astronauts' health when they launch and return from space.Does SpaceX have nurses? ›
As a space operations nurse at SpaceX, you'll assist in COVID-19 program implementation, employee public health promotion, and other medical operations at SpaceX. You'll work under the supervision of the SpaceX medical team and assist with medical program development and planning.What's the difference between flight medic and flight nurse? ›
The main difference between the two is that flight medics are trained medical personnel who are responsible for the medical care of patients. In contrast, flight nurses are registered nurses who have additional training in aviation medicine.Is there a height requirement for nursing? ›
The applicant should not have any severe physical malformity. Height of at least five feet. Form 138. Pass the Personal Interview.Can ICU nurses intubate? ›
Some ICU nurses may intubate, depending on their training, state regulations, and facility policies. There are typically more rules about the scope of practice for nurses in the ICU compared to other settings.