April 22, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
When time is of paramount importance and can mean the difference between life and death, the fastest way to transfer the patient to a medical facility is by flight. A flight nurse is trained to give medical care to patients during these transportation flights. This could include rescue flights or life flights, either in fixed-wing planes or helicopters.
Since these patients who are transported via aircraft are often severely injured, all medical personnel on board, including flight nurses, must be trained in emergency medical care procedures. In addition, they also need to be familiar with basic aspects of navigation and flight care.
Flight nurses have the option of working either in the civilian sector or for the military. Working as a flight nurse in the military could involve flying into strife-ridden areas to extract seriously wounded patients and soldiers, whereas civilian flight nurses often have more freedom to decide where they’d like to work. While the salary and benefits of a civilian flight nurse can be quite impressive, they still do not compare to that of a military flight nurse.
Flight nurses have diverse job functions and responsibilities. Their first responsibility, however, lies with the patient.
If a patient is being transported from a trauma site, the flight nurse will be required to provide and assist with emergency medical care, which could range from first aid treatment to resuscitation.
Before a medical aircraft takes off, the flight nurse must ensure that the patient is secured by strapping them to gurneys, which are then strapped to the inside of the aircraft. This is to avoid any in-flight jostling.
En route to their destinations, the responsibility for the well-being of the patients lies solely with the flight nurses and their teams. They are no other medical staff to call on and they alone must monitor patients and provide the necessary medical care. This may involve performing emergency first aid, administering medications, starting intravenous lines or performing advanced life support or resuscitation procedures. Because this is often a very frightening time for patients, flight nurses will also talk to them and communicate with them in an effort to reassure them and keep them calm.
Upon reaching their destinations, the flight nurses and their teams will carefully unload the patient from the aircraft and transfer them to the awaiting medical staff, update them on the patients’ conditions, and notify them of any problems or medical treatment given during the flight.
There are a couple different routes you can choose from if you are looking to become a flight nurse.
Your first option is to find a nursing program and earn your Registered Nursing degree. Once you’ve become a registered nurse, you can then start working toward a graduate degree in emergency nursing. Experience in emergency rooms and an intensive care unit is also very helpful. After earning your degree and gaining some experience, you can then complete the Certified Flight Registered Nurse Examination to obtain your certification for practising as a flight nurse.