Nurses deal a lot with trauma. One of the specialties within nursing that tackles trauma head-on is the flight nurse. They work with patients who need emergency evacuation via helicopter or airplane to a medical facility. Their patient’s trauma is often so severe they can’t go by ground transport.
In this blog, we will explore the following:
- What is a flight nurse?
- What does a flight nurse do?
- Where do flight nurses work?
- What attributes should a flight nurse have?
- How do you become a flight nurse?
- How much do flight nurses make?
What is a flight nurse?
A flight nurse is a registered nurse who specializes in providing pre-hospital emergency care on an aircraft. They work with physicians and paramedics to ensure that their patients receive the care they need during transport. Often, flight nurses deal with acutely ill and injured patients in high-pressure, and often unstable, environments.
The nurses have to provide hospital-level service to patients in their care in tandem with the rest of the healthcare team.
What does a flight nurse do?
Flight nurses work to help patients who can’t be transported by ground. They provide vital triage care to the patient to help make sure they arrive at the hospital safely. Some of the principal duties of the flight nurse include:
- Inspecting the condition of acutely ill patients upon arrival and beginning treatment
- Communicating with emergency departments on the condition of patients along with ETA
- Performing advanced critical care intervention and monitoring vitals throughout the flight
- Performing regular maintenance on specialized onboard medical equipment
- Taking inventory of medical supplies, instruments, and medication
Where do flight nurses work?
Flight nurses can work in the general public, government, or military environments. Nurses who work in the general public often work for:
- Hospitals and trauma centers
- Fire departments
- Independent medical transportation companies
- Hospital-based research facilities
Nurses who work for the government often work for the federal, local or municipal government. Flight nurses who work for the military typically work overseas or with the military reserves.
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What attributes should a flight nurse have?
Flight nurses need to possess several key attributes. The job puts nurses in high-stress situations. Some critical traits for a flight nurse are listed below.
Ability to work under pressure: This attribute is vital for flight nurses to possess. They deal with patients who have suffered severe trauma and need immediate, sometimes life-saving assistance. Though the nurse is only working with one patient, that patient is in critical condition, and it’s essential the nurse stays calm and provides vital services to the patient.
Attention to detail: Flight nurses constantly take inventory of medical supplies and keep up with the vital signs and other critical information about a patient.
Problem-solving skills: A good flight nurse will know how to handle stress and have the capacity to make sound decisions under pressure.
How do you become a flight nurse?
Becoming a flight nurse takes time. You have to accumulate almost five years of experience in the ICU or emergency department. Most nursing roles don’t require that much time of service before entering a role.
Here are the complete requirements for becoming a flight nurse.
Step 1. Earn a nursing degree:
If you don’t already have a nursing degree and are not registered, this is the first step. You can earn either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing to become an RN. You can receive your associate degree in two years at a community college. Your bachelor’s degree takes about four years at a college or university.
Step 2. Become an RN:
Once you graduate from the nursing program, the next step is taking the NCLEX-RN exam. This is a standardized test that will allow you to become an RN upon passing. The tests cover eight core areas of care. These include:
- Management of Care/Coordinated Care
- Basic Care and Comfort
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
- Psychosocial Integrity
- Physiological Adaptation
- Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
- Reduction of Risk Potential
- Safety and Infection Control
Step 3. Gain experience in the ICU or ER:
Potential flight nurses need to gain at least five years of experience working in the ICU or emergency department.
Step 4. Obtain certification:
The last step to becoming a flight nurse involves obtaining certification. The certification for flight nurses is the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN). The Board of Certification gives this to Emergency Nursing (BCEN).
How much do flight nurses make?
Flight nurse’s earnings depend on their location, experience, and education. However, they tend to make around as much as a typical registered nurse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses make $80,010 per year.
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