How to Become a Flight Nurse - RNCareers (2023)

Flight Nurse Overview

  • What You Will Do:Provide urgent care for patients during transportation flights, either in helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Where Will You Work:Flight nurses may work either for civilian agencies, such as hospitals or trauma centers, or with all branches of the military.
  • Employment Projections:Nursing is expected to be the fastest-growing professions, with growth projected at 16% – 23%; employment outlook for flight nurses is excellent
  • How Much Will I Earn:The average annual salary for flight nurses ranges from $54,000 to $103,000, with an average of $74,430.
  • Requirements to Become One:Become an RN; obtain 2 – 5 years experience in trauma, emergency or intensive care nursing; obtain related specialty certificate training, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS); obtain Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) credential.

How-To Become a Flight Nurse in Five Steps

Earn Your RN

You must earn an RN degree from an accredited nursing program; It is important to note that most employers require a minimum of a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

All RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure to practice nursing.

Specialize in Emergency, Trauma or ICU Nursing

You must have a minimum of 2 years professional nursing experience in an emergency department, intensive care unit or trauma unit before you can apply for certification as a flight nurse.

Obtain Related Specialty Certificates

Employers prefer flight nurses have several certifications, such as, in part, basic life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).

Obtain Certified Flight Registered Nurse Credential

Obtain this certification from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.

How to Become a Flight Nurse - RNCareers (1)

What is a Flight Nurse?

A flight transport nurse is specially trained to provide patient care during transportation via rotor (helicopter) or fixed-wing aircraft. Flight nurses provide comprehensive pre-hospital emergency trauma care, as from the scene of a motor vehicle crash, and hospital-level intensive care, as when transporting patients from one hospital to another. Flight nurses are integral members of an interdisciplinary flight team including flight medics, physicians and other health care professionals. Flight teams respond to disasters and emergency scenes, and transport critically ill patients beyond the range of ground transport. The flight nurse may be called upon to assist pilots with duties such as navigation or radio communications. Of course, the first priority is to the patient, and the goal of each mission is to assess, triage, stabilize and transport as many patients as possible to a medical trauma center able to provide optimal care for victims of such incidents. The flight nurse acts to document and track patients’ condition, provide care before and during transport, maintain all crew safety procedures, coordinate and supervise patient care assistants if needed, provide first aid if needed, and acquire and operate specialized equipment such as ventilators, infusion pumps, and monitors. At the beginning of transport, the flight nurse assists with onboarding patients, and safely securing them during the flight. On arrival at the destination, the flight nurse offloads patients and provides hand-off briefings for receiving staff.

How Do I Become a Flight Nurse?

The first step toward becoming a flight nurse is to become a Registered Nurse, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. After graduation, you must obtain RN licensure by taking the NCLEX-RN examination in your state. Once you have achieved licensure, you will need to work a minimum of 2 -5 years as a staff nurse in an emergency department, intensive care unit, or trauma unit. Related specialty certificates needed include:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)

Additional certifications that may be required include:

  • Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN)
  • Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC)
  • Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) or Critical Care Nurse (CCRN)
  • PHTLS (National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians Pre-Hospital Trauma Life support
  • ITLS (International Trauma Life Support)
  • Emergency Medical Technician EMT licensure/certification
  • Neonatal Advanced Life Support (NALS) or Neonatal Life Support (NLS)
  • Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses
  • Advanced Trauma Life Support
  • Advanced Burn Life Support
  • Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems
  • Hazardous material training, such as
    • HAZMAT Chemical/Dangerous Goods training
    • OSHA Hazardous Materials Awareness Certification
    • National Incident Management System – FEMA training

Finally, you must sit for the Certified Flight Registered Nurse Exam, from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, to become a Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN). Certification is valid for 4 years, after which it must be renewed by showing participation in approved continuing education programs. If this is not possible, the certification exam must be retaken.

Some employers may prefer, or even require a Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN) for flight nurses, with a focus on trauma/emergency nursing.

Where Do Flight Nurses Typically Work?

In the civilian venue, flight nurses typically work for hospitals or private medical transport agencies. They may also work for search and rescue organizations, fire departments, or federal government agencies. Flight nurses are active in each branch of the military, including reserves and national guard; U.S Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Army MEDEVAC flight nurses, Air National Guard, National Guard Army Medical Department, and USAF, Navy and Army reserve units. Military flight nurses are often deployed to support active duty troops in foreign countries.

How Much Do Flight Nurses Earn?

Nursing, in general, is identified as one of the fastest growing professions in the US in terms of salary, with a projected growth of 16%+, much higher than the national average. Specialty certification can increase earnings significantly; quotes a median average salary of $74,430. annually, with a range of $54,000 – $103,000 for Certified Flight Registered Nurses. This is dependent on the job, and the geographical area. Salaries are generally higher in urban areas, however, the cost of living is typically higher, as well. In addition, bachelor’s prepared nurses tend to earn higher salaries than nurses with associate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the top five states for general nursing salaries are with a range or $53,410 to $116,230 at the lowest and highest 10%)

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Massachusetts
How to Become a Flight Nurse - RNCareers (2)

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Flight Nurse Programs

At the undergraduate level, nursing programs do not address flight nursing within the curriculum. As a professional nurse, the nurse aspiring to become a flight nurse will need to pursue related specialty certificates, as previously listed. The Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC), from the Air and Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) is available online, or in workshop venues throughout the country.

At the graduate level, flight nursing is structured within Acute Care Nurse Practitioner programs. A program that specifically addresses flight nursing is:

Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner programs include, in part;

What is a Typical Flight Nursing Curriculum?

Topics covered in the Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC):

  • Transport Physiology
  • Safety
  • Neurological Trauma
  • Shock
  • Thoracic and Abdominal Trauma
  • Trauma in Pregnancy
  • Pediatric Trauma
  • Legal Aspects of Transport
  • Trauma Due to Burns
  • Airway and Ventilatory Management
  • Crisis Management
  • Clinical skills – chest and c-spine x-ray interpretation, airway management, invasive procedures, and patient assessment.

The Flight Nursing Program at Case Western includes the following flight specialty courses in addition to the Acute Care curriculum:

  • Critical Care Transport
  • Emergent Care of Children
  • Advanced Internship in Flight Nursing

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care programs focus on topics including;

  • Advanced physiology/pathophysiology
  • Advanced management of acutely ill adults
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Mental health issues
  • Advanced skin and wound management
  • Palliative care
  • Leadership and business
  • Research

The Role of the Flight Nurse in the Nursing Shortage

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that employment for nurses will increase at a rate of 16% by 2024. There is a national shortage of nurses in general related to the Baby Boomer population entering retirement, and the increased health needs of the growing aging population. It is projected that the South and West will be hardest hit by the nursing shortage. The 12 states expected to have the most acute shortages are; Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico.

In terms of flight nursing, traumatic injuries are expected to increase, which will increase the demand for flight transport and flight nurses. Although there is not a great amount of turnover in this type job, new private organizations are opening, and are actively recruiting flight nurses.

Flight Nurse Resources



How to Become a Flight Nurse - RNCareers? ›

Requirements to Become One: Become an RN; obtain 2 – 5 years experience in trauma, emergency or intensive care nursing; obtain related specialty certificate training, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS); obtain Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) credential.

What are 3 qualifications of a flight nurse? ›

  • MINIMUM EDUCATION. Bachelor's degree in nursing from a school accredited by the BSN program. Possess a valid U.S. or U.S. territory registered nurse license.
  • QUALIFICATIONS. Minimum of one-year clinical experience in acute care nursing.

How long does it take to be a flight nurse? ›

It can take anywhere from 5-12 years to become a flight nurse. Some can become a flight nurse in five years with an ADN and three years of experience.

How do I become a flight attendant nurse? ›

After becoming a registered nurse, look for work in an emergency department, trauma unit or intensive care unit to gain the experience you need to work as a flight nurse. Most employers require nurses to have at least three to five years of critical care or emergency experience before hiring them as flight nurses.

Can a nurse become a flight nurse with only a BSN? ›

In order to become a flight nurse, you need to have earned your RN from an accredited program, and most employers require a minimum of a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN). You'll also need to pass the NCLEX-RN.

What is the highest salary for a flight nurse? ›

While the BLS does not differentiate between different specialties of nursing, ZipRecruiter reports that the average flight nurse salary is $81,093 per year or $39.00 per hour. Flight nurse salaries range between $64,000 to $99,000 with some making upwards of $105,000 annually.

Are flight nurses in demand? ›

What Is the Job Outlook for Flight Nurses? The job outlook for flight nurses is very positive, with the demand for their specialized skills and expertise projected to increase faster than the average for all occupations. The employment of registered nurses, including flight nurses, will grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031.

Do travel nurses get flights paid for? ›

As a travel nurse, would I need to pay for my travel and housing? Travel is always complimentary before and after a completed assignment. Not only are they paid for, they're arranged for you too. All you have to do is pack and fly.

What are the disadvantages of being a flight nurse? ›

Cons of being a flight nurse

If you're a student, or you have a job, spouse, or children the schedule of a flight nurse might not be ideal for you. When you're on shift, you have to be ready to go anywhere at a moment's notice. You do have to lift the patients onto the stretcher and get them onto the plane/helicopter.

Do flight nurses work 12 hour shifts? ›

A full time flight nurse may work up to 10, 24-hour shifts over four weeks, whereas a part time flight nurse may only work three 24-hour shifts a month. Some employers utilize 12-hour shifts for flight nurses.

Do flight nurses intubate? ›

In flight nursing, you have the same capabilities as you would in an ICU. Flight nurses can intubate, do rapid sequence intubation and put in chest tubes.

Can you be a flight nurse as a new grad? ›

In order to practice as a flight nurse you will first need to earn a degree in nursing. You may qualify for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) by earning an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN, or ADN) or a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Is it hard to be a flight nurse? ›

How hard is it to become a flight nurse? Becoming a flight nurse takes 5-7 years. It also requires dedication to learning and practicing high-level nursing skills in critical care, resuscitation, trauma nursing, emergency nursing, etc.

What is the difference between a travel nurse and a flight nurse? ›

A flight nurse specializes in providing medical care for patients during a flight. A travel nurses goes to different hospitals, helping provide care to patients.

Do flight nurses fly the helicopter? ›

They work alongside flight paramedics and pilots to provide rapid response medical care and life-saving treatment. Nurses and paramedics are not licensed to fly planes or helicopters. They work exclusively on board with patients.

How hard is the CFRN exam? ›

About 60% of candidates who sit for the exam pass, which is a pretty good for a pass rate, but still low enough to show you that preparation is essential to your success on this test.

Can a travel nurse make 7 figures? ›

Travel nurses can bring in over $50 per hour, plus company-paid housing accommodations. Making it entirely possible for travel nurses to make well over $100K per year.

Can travel nurses make 200k a year? ›

Even with the decrease, travel nurses can make nearly $200,000 per year, assuming a weekly rate of $3,080.

How much does a flight nurse at Delta make? ›

The estimated total pay for a Nurse at Delta Air Lines is $51 per hour. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated base pay is $45 per hour.

What state pays the most for flight nurses? ›

The highest-paid flight nurses can be found in California while the lowest-paid flight nurses can be found in Alabama. Transport RNs in the Golden State average $122,190 a year, which is approximately twice as much as transport RNs in the Cotton State who make $61,050 a year.

How many shifts do flight nurses work? ›

If you're wondering how often flight nurses work, they work 24-hour shifts and typically 6 to 8 shifts per month. When on the clock, this profession can be very labor-intensive; however, flight nurses do not need to work as many shifts as staff nurses. Obviously, this is due to their longer shifts.

Am I too old to be a flight nurse? ›

Regarding the maximum age, there aren't any specific limits that force a flight nurse to stop working. That is, unless the flight nurse becomes unfit for the job. Some flight nurses even work into their mid-late 50's.

How to make six figures as a nurse? ›

  1. Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) ...
  2. Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) ...
  3. Become a Nurse Midwife. ...
  4. Advance in Nurse Leadership. ...
  5. Begin travel nursing assignment. ...
  6. Change Nursing specialties. ...
  7. Relocate to a higher paying state. ...
  8. Make sacrifices.

Who pays the best in travel nursing? ›

It's a great option for those looking for higher-paying short-term work at various medical facilities. The average salary varies state by state for travel nurses based on demand and specialty. The top three highest-paying states include: Idaho ($151,203), Nevada ($149,196), and Illinois ($148,382).

Does Aya pay for scrubs? ›

We may be able to offer reimbursements for licenses, certifications, scrubs or other necessities you need to work the assignment. Your recruiter will provide more information. Are benefits offered? Yes, if you're on a full-time assignment, we offer medical, dental, vision and life insurance.

Where do flight nurses make the most? ›

Flight Nurses earn 20% higher than the national average in New York, with an average hourly rate of $51.71 per hour. Flight Nurses also earn more in: Connecticut: $48.83 (13% above national average) California: $48.62 (13% above national average)

Is travel nursing still worth it? ›

Is travel nursing still worth it? The average annual base salary for registered nurses in 2021 was $77,600, according to the BLS. Assuming a rate of $3,100 per week for 52 weeks in a year, theoretically travel RNs could make more than $161,000.

Are travel nurses happier? ›

Study says: travel nurses are happier

Full-time nurses have it rough. Longer shifts, increased workloads and dangerous nurse-to-patient ratios are too common.

What is longest shift nurse work? ›

Many facilities are routinely scheduling back-to-back 16-hour shifts (permanent schedules) for their licensed LPNs and RNs. This practice leads to most of these nurses working 16.5 or greater hours and then returning for another 16.5 shift with less than 8 hours between shifts.

How long are travel nurses stationed? ›

Most travel nursing assignments are around 13-14 weeks long, so as the travel nurse, you sign a contract with a travel nursing agency to work that length of time at a designated facility. While 13-14 weeks is an average length of time, there may be other assignments that are shorter or longer.

What is the longest shift for nurses? ›

The max number of hours a nurse can work in a row is usually 16 hours. Though many facilities will limit nurses to working no more than 12 hours straight.

Do flight nurses need ICU experience? ›

Specific license requirements vary by state, but all states require the NCLEX-RN. Gain experience in ICU/ER nursing. Most flight nursing positions require at least three years of experience in an ICU, ER, or another critical-care setting.

Do flight nurses get wings? ›

Flight nurse wings were first established on December 15, 1943 and were awarded to women in the Army Nurse Corps who served at least 6 months in a AAF hospital and who completed an eight week training course approved by the Commanding General, AAF.

Does flight nursing count for CRNA? ›

It depends. If the majority of your flight nursing shift involves providing direct patient care in a critical care setting, yes, you would qualify for admission. However, flight nursing would NOT qualify if you were providing critical care services in short durations or inconsistently.

Are flight nurses first responders? ›

A flight nurse who is an EMT also qualifies as a first responder. Otherwise, the simple occupational title of “registered nurse” is not recognized as a first responder.

What are the different types of flight nurses? ›

Additionally, there are two types of flight nurses: civilian, who work for hospitals and trauma centers; and military, who work for the armed forces at bases or in combat zones.

What is the difference between a flight nurse and a flight medic? ›

The main difference between the two is that flight medics are trained medical personnel who are responsible for the medical care of patients. In contrast, flight nurses are registered nurses who have additional training in aviation medicine.

Do flight nurses get deployed? ›

One of the most significant cons of being an air force nurse is that you may have to leave your family at times. You may often be required to go on deployments that can last for months at a time.

Do nurses get paid more than flight attendants? ›

In the United States, the median salary of flight attendants is $44,000 with the top 10% receiving upwards of $72,000. In comparison, the median salary of nurses is $68,450 - average mean pay in San Francisco (the highest paid region for nurses in the world) is $139,700.

Are travel nurses still in high demand? ›

Between January to July 2022, the demand decreased by approximately 40 percent. And with that shift, travel nurse salaries also dropped closer to pre-pandemic pay rates. Yet despite these industry trends, many nurses still find travel nursing an appealing career path.

Why do travel nurses get paid more than regular nurses? ›

Hospitals use travel nurses to fill short-term staff and managerial positions. Travel nurses live away from home for 13-26 weeks per assignment. Additional compensation is paid to help offset related costs and difficulties.

What is a life flight nurse called? ›

A flight nurse, sometimes referred to as a transport nurse, is an RN who is specially trained to provide medical care to patients during aircraft transportation.

Is a flight nurse an RN? ›

Flight nurses are registered nurses who care for patients transported in a helicopter or plane. As a flight nurse, your primary responsibility is to keep patients stable until they arrive at their destination.

What rank is a flight nurse in the Air Force? ›

Since they are commissioned officers, nurses enter the Air Force as Second Lieutenants, a rank with an annual salary of $41,720, according to 2022 military pay data.

What makes a good flight nurse? ›

Among the goals of orientation is to recognize when somebody is sick and intervene appropriately. Flight nurses need to be critical and creative thinkers, who can recognize when they need help and communicate well with the people on their team, Wolfe said.

What is the hardest exam for nurses? ›

The National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, is a critical exam that every nursing student must take to become a licensed nurse. Passing the NCLEX is essential to begin your nursing career, but it is also one of the most challenging exams you will ever take.

What happens if you fail CCRN exam? ›

Your exam score report will highlight the areas you should focus on to improve your score. If you fail the CCRN exam, you are eligible to retake the exam for a discounted fee up to four times in a 12-month period.

What is the passing score on the CFRN exam? ›

Your exam score is based on your performance on the exam, i.e., based on the number of exam items answered correctly (raw score). How many items do I need to answer correctly to pass my exam? Candidates must answer 108 of the 150 scored items correctly to achieve a passing score.

What are the responsibilities of a flight nurse? ›

Flight nurses are responsible for checking vitals, keeping records, administering medication, performing medical procedures, and more. Often aircrafts will have flight physicians that nurses assist in caring for patients, but in the event that there is no flight physician on board, a flight nurse takes charge.


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