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Flight Nurses Have a Unique and Rewarding Career

Would you like to become a nurse but don’t want to work in a traditional setting? Then consider studying to become a flight nurse.

These registered nurses have a rewarding career helping patients of all ages that are critically ill or injured, and they are highly trained to administer critical and pre-hospital care for patients either during aeromedical evacuations or rescue operations on board a helicopter, jet aircraft, or propeller aircraft.


Flight nurses can work alongside flight physicians or paramedics, and respiratory practitioners. Before the aircraft can take to the air, the nurse must secure patients by strapping them to the gurney, and then fasten the gurney to the inside of the helicopter or plane. Next, they must make sure patients are calm as well as perform tasks such as administering medications, starting intravenous lines, or advanced life support. Other duties include providing initial emergency care if a physician is not on board, and assisting pilots with navigation and radio communication.

Once the flight lands at the medical facility, the nurse and the other onboard personnel transfer patients to the waiting hospital staff. The nurse must also give them any necessary paperwork and let them know if there were any problems with medical treatment during the flight.

Flight NursesEducation and Training

Education begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in Registered Nursing, followed by a post-graduate degree in emergency nursing or intensive care. Along with a minimum five years’ work experience in an emergency room, ICU, or other critical care setting in a hospital, you also need plenty of training, including the following:

  • Altitude Physiology Course
  • Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
  • Trauma Nurse Core Course


Certified Flight Registered Nurse – This exam is administered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, and consists of 180 questions of which 150 will be scored. The exam contains Multiple System Emergencies, Patient Management, Professional Issues, Safety Issues, Single Systems Emergencies.

Certified Emergency Nurse – This is exam is also given by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. The exam has 175 questions of which 150 are scored. It covers thirteen subject areas including Cardiovascular Emergencies, Neurological Emergencies, and Professional Issues.

Certified Critical Care Registered Nurse – Administered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation, this exam contains 150 questions of which 125 are scored. Subjects include the Pulmonary System, Immunology, and Neurology.

Other certifications include:

  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • Advanced Pediatric Life Support
  • Basic Life Support Certification
  • Certification for Neonatal Resuscitation
  • CPR Certification
  • EMT Certification/License

Where to Work

Flight nurses can work in the private sector or join the military. Those that work as a civilian can find employment with hospitals, trauma centers, independent medical evacuation firms, fire departments, and search and rescue organizations.

Those that want to be a military flight nurse will most likely find themselves serving in the Air Force, however, it’s possible to find a job with the United States Army, Coast Guard, or Navy. To join the Air Force, you must pass the Air Force Flight School, be less than 47 years of age, and complete Commissioned Officers Training among other requirements.

Outlook and Salary

Flight nurses are in high demand as medical care keeps evolving. The salary depends on state and employer, and usually ranges from $65,000 to $70,000.  Though those in New York can earn up to $80,000. When it comes time to retirement, many employers give generous packages that include an employer-matching 401k account. If you work for the Air Force, you will make between $33,000 and $72,000 based on rank, and will probably be eligible for retirement after twenty years of service.

This career also requires you to think quickly and to be able to handle incredibly stressful situations. If this sounds like it’s the job for you, contact us at Nursing Examiner to learn more.