Flight nurses provide in flight medical care to patients suffering from a variety of ailments while they are being transported to a local hospital or health care facility via aircraft.
In most cases flight nurses are called upon when an individual is experiencing a trauma or severe illness and needs immediate medical attention, and can’t be reached in time by an emergency ground unit such as an ambulance.
Flight nurses are also used to help extract patients from environments that are difficult or impossible for ground units to travel on such as mountainous terrain, ice-covered landscapes, flooded areas and large vehicle accidents surrounded by traffic.
Flight crew and teamwork
Because of the limited cabin space in the aircraft most medical units contain only 1 – 3 health care personnel plus the pilots.
Each member of the team brings his/her skills into the field and uses their abilities to help stabilize the patient and provide proper medical care for their specific ailment until the patient arrives at a hospital or health care facility where they can receive additional care.
Depending on the air critical care transport unit some flight crews may contain one or more of these medical specialists, however many flight teams are composed solely of flight nurses.
Transport team specialties
Respiratory practitioners specialize in helping patients who are suffering from lung, respiratory and/or a variety of breathing other problems and use their knowledge to ensure the patient receives the oxygen and respiratory care they need.
Flight physicians (commonly refered to as flight doctors) bring their advanced medical knowledge into the field and are capable of performing surgical operations while on board the aircraft if the patients condition requires immediate surgery.
Flight paramedics have acquired lots of experience working as emergency ground paramedics and use their experience to assess the patients condition and provide additional support to other members of the critical care transport team.
Flight nurses are previously trained registered nurses who have acquired years of training in a critical care setting such as an ICU (intensive care unit) or the ER (emergency room) and are generally certified in a number of areas related to emergency health care.
Because flight nurses have obtained years of emergency care experience they are able to work independently in critical care situations and are able to provide patients with adequate medical care until the are able to reach a health care facility.
Career opportunities and job outlook
The flight nursing industry is continually growing and expanding, and those who have acquired the experience, training and knowledge needed to become a flight nurse will be happy to know that while the flight nursing field is competitive there are plenty of health care companies and organizations looking to hire qualified, competent registered nurses who have a strong desire to work as flight nurses.
As many of the older nurses retire (the average age of registered nurses in 2012 is projected to be around 44.5 years of age) and the economy continues to expand the nursing field will continue to rapidly increase in terms of job opportunities and an overall need for educated nurses.
By the year 2020 it is estimated that as many as 800,000 positions will be available to those who are interested in working in the field of nursing.
Those who are flexible and willing to travel/move to states where nurses are most needed will have the best opportunities for getting a job within the nursing field and finding career advancement opportunities.