A flight nurse is an experienced registered nurse who performs on board medical care to patients dealing with a trauma or illness.
These nurses are responsible for providing immediate medical assistance to their patients from the moment they arrive at the scene of the incident until the patient reaches the hospital via aircraft transport.
These nurse may be found operating out of a variety of different aircraft such as jet aircraft, propeller aircraft and/or helicopters.
Flight nurses are often called upon during rescue missions or on aero-medical evacuations and are usually accompanied by an emergency and/or critical care support transport team, which may include flight paramedics, flight physicians and/or respiratory practitioners.
Just as an ambulance crew operates as a team to rescue individuals suffering from intense physical, mental or psychological stresses through the use of an ambulatory vehicle flight nurses work alongside a medical team of aero medical professionals that have been trained to react well on critical flight missions in order to ensure that each patient receives appropriate medical care while onboard an aircraft.
Some of the responsibilities flight nurses are required to undertake include facilitating proper medical care to each patient in need of immediate medical assistance, assessing the patients ailments, administering medications, handling basic treatments, supplies and equipment and providing patients with a comfortable environment until they reach the hospital.
Flight nurses may also act as a liaison between the medical team and the flight crew, and will communicate with the hospital doctors and staff about the patients situation and mental/physical ailments when they arrive at the hospital.
Should a patient be in need of immediate care that requires surgery or advanced treatment while in flight the on board flight physician would be in charge of performing such operations, however should the flight physician be absent then the flight nurse may prepare for and possibly perform the surgical operation/advanced treatment him or herself.
Becoming a flight nurse requires a lot of experience in handling patients who suffer from traumatic experiences and/or events and requires quick thinking, strong nerves, excellent organization skills, a good heart, positive mind and the ability to make decisive decisions at a moments notice.
Due to the level of education and training that is necessary to perform proficiently in this type of work setting all flight nurses are generally required to have worked at least 5 years of work in an intensive care setting, and must take a number of continuing education courses and certifications in order to qualify for a potential position as a flight nurse.
Depending on the hospital or organization a flight nurse works for the number of working hours a flight nurse may experience compared to down time can vary significantly.
The number of hours flight nurses are on duty for may also vary but it isn’t uncommon for flight nurses to operate on 24 hour shifts.
Factors such as city population, crime rate, natural disasters, environmental geography and a number of other unpredictable factors are often responsible for determining how often a flight nurse may be called in for a mission.
There are many benefits to becoming a flight nurse and the consistent challenges and changing environments flight nurses face ensures that the work is always exciting and rewarding.