How to Become a Flight Nurse: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to become a flight nurse By Kathy Marshall, Contributor

If you’re bored with the typical hospital environment, you might have wondered how to become a flight nurse. 

Working as a flight nurse is one of the most rewarding and challenging positions a nurse can ever do.

Many questions come up: how much do flight nurses make, what qualifications are required, and what is a flight nurse? 

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How to Become a Flight Nurse

What Is a Flight Nurse?

A flight nurse performs their duties in a variety of settings. Some services deliver care in airplanes on long flight transfers. Most flight nurses provide patient care while working for helicopter services.

Helicopter services vary around the nation. Many are hospital-based, while others are run by a company. Patients are typically in need of critical care. As a flight nurse, you may pick up your patients from ICUs or be called to come directly to an emergency scene.

Critical thinking and skills are two very important factors for flight nurses to possess; they do not have the luxury of an entire hospital at their disposal.

What Are the Requirements for Being a Flight Nurse?

When learning how to become a flight nurse, you must be clear on the requirements. Every service has different standards, but typically, you can expect the following requirements for being a flight nurse:

  • BSN or MSN
  • At least two years’ experience
  • EMT and/or NRP certification
  • Critical care/trauma/emergency/pediatric care experience
  • Various certifications (ACLS, AMLS, BTLS, ITLS, PALS, etc.)

Some employers have certain requirements that must be completed at the time of application, while others give a timeline for obtaining these requirements upon employment. Be sure to check with the service you are applying to for their requirements.

As a flight nurse, you will be required to maintain all your certifications and continuing education. On top of the medical training, you will also need to undergo training regarding safety measures regarding the helicopter or airplane, loading and unloading procedures, and even survival training in the event of a crash.

As an additional step, and a requirement for some services, you can go on to obtain your Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) or Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN).

How Much Do Flight Nurses Make?

The average salary for a flight nurse ranges from $50,000 to $97,000. The disparity in pay can be accounted for by varying service size and overtime.

Why Be a Flight Nurse?

As a nurse, you can change and improve someone’s life. In the role of a flight nurse, you can not only deliver medical care in an exciting setting, but you can make a dramatic difference in the lives of others.

Many flight nurses are required or volunteer to train and educate fellow medical professionals and first responders. This training not only improves overall patient care, but it establishes relationships between caregivers.

How Do I Become a Flight Nurse?

Start by making sure your RN license stays in good standing and that you are up-to-date on all education requirements. 

All flight services require previous experience at least in the emergency and critical care setting. Apply to positions in these settings, and set out to learn all you can about critical care and emergency patients.

Make a list of flight services you would like to work for, and read their specific requirements. If they request certain certifications but state they can be obtained after employment, go ahead and obtain those certifications if your budget allows.

Some services have ride-along programs. Schedule for a shift and see if the job is right for you.

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