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What are the most important qualities to have to be a successful flight nurse?

I have found a strong passion for flight nursing and what to know if I would be a good fit for the career before the 3-5 years of training and classes. #flight-nurse #nursing #healthcare #hospital-and-health-care


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Nathan’s Answer

Hi Cassandra,

Just to tell you a little about myself. I have been a nurse for 23 years with 12 of those years as a flight nurse. I worked for several flight programs here in the US and also in Australia. First in order to become a flight nurse, you need to become a Registered Nurse. After getting your nursing license, you need on average 3-5 years experience working in the ED and or ICU and obtaining various certifications. To succeed as a flight nurse, one requires certain skills and personality traits that allows you to function as a member of a close team. First and foremost, one needs to be in good physical shape as the job requires lots of lifting, carrying equipment, and be able to tolerate working in very enclosed spaces such as back of the helicopter or on a fixed wing aircraft or in back of an ambulance. Since it is only you and your partner

(nurse or paramedic), you need to have the knowledge and the skills to provide high level care in very demanding and stressful situations. You need to be able to make decision quickly and be able to switch gears as the conditions you will be working in are very fluid and dynamic. You need to be able to work with people from different backgrounds such as law enforcement, fire departments, EMS and hospital staff. You may need to assume charge of a situation and direct other people as you may be the highest level care provider. You need the capacity to learn advanced skills that are not practiced by those working in the hospital such as intubation ( inserting a breathing tube), inserting IVs, able to read and understand a EKG (electrocardiogram), knowledge of about various medications and their use in the appropriate situation.


EMS experience and experience in the ED and or ICU at a Level 1 trauma center is very beneficial.

If you want to get some experience about what in involved in being a flight nurse, you can contact a flight program in your area and ask them if they have a ride along program , where you can spend the day with a flight crew and get first hand experience. Most flight programs are based either at the hospital or in the community at the local airport.




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Leia’s Answer

I found flight nursing once I was already a nurse. I started out on a telemetry floor and learned what I needed to do. So, to echo what everyone has already said (and is the gold standard across the board). Start off with you nursing degree and go for the BSN off the bat. Definitely try to get a ride along which most programs offer. And go with a list of questions. I got hired based off my ride along, they saw my dedication, interest, commitment from day 1. Your first impression is key. This will give you a true feel if that’s where you want to be before you commit to any more classes or certifications. If yes, keep going with whatever your state requires for certification once you have your experience, whether it be a class or whatever. ICU will help you feel the most confident if the program is heavy on inter-facility missions, level-1 trauma experience may make you feel more comfortable with a program heavy in scene work. Each has its +/-. Get your years in, learn everything you can, feel comfortable in your skills and skin and then GO FOR IT!! This world of EMS is very different then hospital nursing. You are your own doctor, respiratory therapist, nurse, safety officer, pharmacist...and so is your partner. You learn to work together is some very intense situations where is only you and your partner, all eyes on you. People call the helicopter JUST for your expertise. It’s a high compliment. Your education and skills never stop. If you choose this path, good luck and congratulations. You can do it.

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Jennifer’s Answer

Cassandra~

How cool is this site? I stumbled upon it on LinkedIn and thought I would answer your question. So, I have been a nurse for over 20 years and work at a busy level-1 trauma center as a rotor-wing (helicopter) flight nurse. I have been with the program for over 5 years, and I am in a graduate program with plans to be an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in the hospital.

So what you need to know to become a flight nurse~
1. Make sure it is something you desire deep in your heart, not just because it looks cool. It can be stressful but rewarding and a scorching job in the South because we wear fire-resistant suits to protect us, and they make you sweat a lot!
2. Go to college to become a registered nurse-most programs want a bachelor's degree (so that is 4-years of college).
3. Obtain a job at a level-1 trauma center in the emergency department or the intensive care unit for at least 3 years.
4. Get some experience as an EMT while you are in college--it will really open your eyes to emergency care and prehospital medicine.
5. Be prepared to study, study, study, and gain lots of certifications.
6. Be prepared to never-ever stop learning! There will always be something you have never seen before.
7. Always be humble yet confident.
8. Be prepared to have the coolest and most rewarding job EVER!

Someone else mentioned a ride-along with your local flight program or maybe even an EMS agency!

Best of luck to you and your future!

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Eric’s Answer

There are many different aspects of flight nursing. Most require some experience in intensive care or emergency nursing. So:
1) get a nursing degree - frequently an associates degree from a well regarded program at a community college is enough to get you in the door at a hospital that will offer some tuition reimbursement for your bachelors of science in nursing (BSN). You need a BSN to advance.
2) seek work in the ICU or ER of a well regarded medical center
3) get to know the leaders of the emergency transport service that moves patients to your hospital. Once you have some experience, they can provide opportunities for you to work as a flight nurse.

In rural areas the flight service may be part of the county or hospital. In big cities there will be multiple private ambulance companies that provide this service.
4) there are many air ambulance services across the country that hire ICU nurses to transport patients all over the world; sometimes on private jets set up as ICU beds, and sometimes on commercial flights.

One final note. It would be a good idea to spend 6 weeks in a course to get certified as a patient care technician (PCT). This will give you a flavor of what it is like to be a nurse without the massive investment in your nursing degree. As a PCT you can get work that pays pretty well, and might give you tuition reimbursement for a nursing degree. You also will do the hardest of the nursing work, so if you like that work, you can be pretty sure nursing is for you.

Nursing, and especially flight nursing, requires independence and attention to detail. You must also be confident and competent at making rapid decisions and choices. As a flight nurse, at times you will be the person making life and death choices with little support from doctors while you get a patient to the emergency room.

Eric recommends the following next steps:

Consider getting a PCT certification
Go to nursing school
Work in an ICU or ER
Meet the people transporting patients to your hospital and get advice about their employers and how they hire

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Lauryn’s Answer

If I am being honest, this is the first time that I’ve actually heard of a flight nurse. I was intrigued and I did some research about it to see what it was all about. Now that I have some knowledge on what flight nurses do, I believe that they have to be alert, creative, and passionate. When you’re in certain circumstances, for example in the air, you might not have every supply that you need which is where your creativity needs to come into play. It is also important to be alert of the passengers, especially if something seems off about one and they might need to seek professional help, and lastly you must be passionate. It definitely is one of those careers that you have to really want to do to be happy in it.

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Angel’s Answer

Be aware to all situations an ensure the best quality service of my client


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Blessings’s Answer

If I am being honest, this is the first time that I’ve actually heard of a flight nurse. I was intrigued and I did some research about it to see what it was all about. Now that I have some knowledge on what flight nurses do, I believe that they have to be alert, composed, creative, and passionate. When you’re in certain circumstances, for example in the air, you might not have every supply that you need which is where your creativity needs to come into play. It is also important to be alert of the passengers, especially if something seems off about one and they might need to seek professional help, and lastly you must be passionate. It definitely is one of those careers that you have to really want to do to be happy in it.

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Brenda’s Answer

Hi Cassandra,
I started flight nursing in Montana! They have many great programs there. Baseline - 3-5 years experience as an RN in a critical care or emergency department. Everything you learn is what you use on the aircraft. Think about how you manage stress and interact with people who are stressed. We look for people who have good people skills, communication and are able to make critical decisions with a partner. Any and all continuing education that you can grab during your early years in nursing will be an advantage. All of the ALS classes are needed when you start a flight position.

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John’s Answer

be a small person. even the big ones were difficult


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Jason’s Answer

Cassandra,

First and foremost, what are your gifts? Do you like helping other people? Are you naturally compassionate? If yes, get your BSN ( Bachelor of Science in Nursing). It's the best advice I've ever received. Do you get paid a decent salary? Yes. However, the best thing about nursing, it opens the door to nearly endless career choices. Tired of working ER, transition into pediatrics. Need a break from bedside nursing? Give Clinical Documentation Improvement a try or teaching. Have a passion for computers, electronics? Nursing informatics is exploding with career opportunities. Want to open your own clinic? Get your Master's in Family Nurse Practioner.
Flight nurse: Early in college take an EMT course and get certified and work or volunteer as an EMT-Basic which will give you a better understanding of the pre-hospital side of things. If you don't mind taking 1-2 years longer than to get your BSN, go all the way and become a Paramedic. That's how I put myself through college. Let me tell you as a Chief Flight Nurse when reviewing candidates for a flight nurse position, having that experience will move you near the top.
When you graduate, if it all possible, begin your career in Critical Care (ICU). You will learn SO MUCH about pathophysiology, medications, critical thinking, ventilators, the list goes on and on. The information and experience gained will be invaluable for the rest of your career. Spend 2-3 years there and get your CCRN which is a highly coveted nationally recognized certificate in Critical Care Nursing.
Next, transition to the Emergency Department of a Level I Trauma Center for a couple of years. During all this time not only get certified in ACLS, PALS, TNCC, ENPC, but become an instructor of these courses. Have that desire for adventure (some call us adrenaline junkies), maintain your compassion and empathy for others while at the same time have the strength, the confidence to advocate for your patients and yourself. Take care of yourself, have fun, smile, cry it out when you need to, and have a healthy outlet for the stress you'll feel, the things you see, and the hurt you'll feel.
Nursing, whatever your specialty, is a hard and difficult job, yet an immensely rewarding and exciting career.
Good luck to you!!

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Vibin’s Answer

Communication skill, Patient Care, Interpersonal Skills


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