Just as EMTs/EMS work out of ground-based vehicles, flight nurses work on various aircraft.
It includes jet aircraft, propeller aircraft, and helicopters. Most flight nurses work in helicopters at hospitals or medical transport companies.
Flight nurses are essential to healthcare because they can reach locations faster than ground-based vehicles.
Furthermore, they can get to places inaccessible to wheeled transport.
For instance, flight nurses can reach mountainous terrain, forests, cruise ships, fortified locations, and other hard-to-reach environments.
Due to the nature of the job, flight nurses must be physically fit and maintain specific requirements.
It involves weight requirements, height conditions, physical strength qualifications, and other demands.
The following section provides physical requirement information based on flight nursing jobs that utilize helicopters.
Companies/hospitals that use fixed-wing aircraft may have their flight nurse requirements.
Flight Nurse Weight Requirements
Regarding flight nurse weight requirements, hospitals, and medical transport companies set their weight conditions.
With that said, most places require flight nurses to weigh 250 pounds or less.
Medical transport companies need flight nurses to weigh a maximum of 200 lbs.
However, organizations with large aircraft may make exceptions regarding the weight limit.
Because flight nurses must maneuver easily in small aircraft, their size, and height are essential.
Factors such as the helicopter’s cabin space, engine, occupancy count, and frame structure affect whether it can comfortably handle a specific crew size.
Therefore, the individual’s and flight crew’s total weight determines the aircraft’s optimal performance.
It also affects the nurse’s own health/safety and that of their flight crew and patients.
Consequently, a flight nurse over the weight requirement assigned by the employer may have difficulty getting hired.
Flight Nurse Weight Limit
- Commonly 200 – 250 lbs
Flight Nurse Height Requirements
While weight requirements impact a nurse’s ability to get hired, their height is also a factor.
It’s because it is challenging to move around, access equipment, and provide dependable care when someone is exceptionally tall.
For instance, an individual that’s 6’4″ may not comfortably fit inside a small aircraft.
As a result, even if they’re qualified, they may not get the position due to their height.
To illustrate, STATMedEvac has a height limit of 6’2″ for full-time and casual flight paramedics.
The best way to determine whether you qualify for a position is to contact the hospital or transport company.
Ask them about their physical requirements before applying to decide whether or not they meet the qualifications.
Additionally, check out the company’s website for information regarding physical requirements.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much information concerning general flight nurse height specifications.
It’s common for organizations to set their physical requirements based on their aircraft and safety protocols.
Flight Nurse Height Limit
- 6’2″ based on some companies (however, it varies by organization and aircraft)
Flight Nurse Strength Requirements
A third determinant commonly required by hospitals and medical transport companies is a flight nurse’s physical strength and endurance.
Essentially, flight nurses must lift heavy objects and meet cardiovascular demands.
Furthermore, they operate in extreme temperatures/environments and deal with prolonged discomfort.
Of course, environmental extremes vary from location to location.
However, flight nurses work outdoors, and thus they are exposed to changes in the environment regularly.
Regarding strength, many companies require flight nurses to carry at least 50 – 100 lbs.
That said, organizations such as the military may require higher strength levels due to the job’s nature.
Also, medical transport companies that deal with emergencies such as natural disasters may require greater strength.
Additional Physical Requirements
- Ability to handle extreme temperatures
- Capacity to deal with prolonged discomfort
- Strength to carry at least 50 – 100 lbs (depending on the company)
- Reasonable endurance requirements (i.e., hold 50 lbs for a quarter-mile)
- The military/companies that deal with emergencies may have higher requirements
Not counting work experience, most nursing programs take 2 – 4 years to complete, not including prerequisites and the NCLEX exam.
Furthermore, flight nursing jobs prefer registered nurses with a BSN.
The Journey to becoming a flight nurse requires years of experience.
Many hospitals and medical transport companies require 3- 5 years of experience in critical care.
When you account for these requirements, most registered nurses don’t become flight nurses until their mid/late 20′.
Some registered nurses apply for positions as flight nurses while in their 40s.
Although there are no fixed age limit requirements, some hospitals and medical transport companies may set a cut-off limit.
Ultimately, the best option is to contact the hospital and medical transport company to get an accurate answer.
Besides age, companies look at physical ability, health status, weight, and height in determining whether an individual is fit for flight nursing.
For many hospitals, physical capability is more important than age when getting hired.
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.
One caveat is that nurses near retirement may not get the job if it requires a long-term work agreement.
It can influence a company’s interest when hiring a flight nurse.
With that said, nursing shortages may increase job availability for flight nursing positions.
Lastly, the military/air force and high-risk departments may set limits if necessary.
Essentially, the higher the job’s physical demands, the more significant age, and physical health will be.
Potential Age Requirements
- Flight nurse age conditions vary by company
- Most flight nurses don’t start until at least their mid/late 20s
- Some flight nurses work into their mid 50’s
- Physical health may be a more significant factor when it comes to employment.
- Nurses nearing retirement may have fewer opportunities
Work Schedule Requirements
Regarding scheduling the hour’s flight, nurses’ work varies.
The hospital’s location, staff size, and emergency call frequency can influence a flight nurse’s schedule.
With that said, most healthcare organizations require flight nurses to operate on a 12 or 24-hour shift rotation.
Even more, most facilities want flight nurses to work 24-hour rotations.
Flight nurses who want additional income may pick up shifts at their hospital or medical transport center.
However, it is important not to overwork during a typical week. Alternatively, some hospitals offer flight nurses extra work at the hospital.
Regarding salary, experienced flight nurses can negotiate pay with their employers.
Some flight nurses have reported pay increases of up to 33.3%. The income flight nurses see in their salary is based on several factors.
For instance, work experience, education, training, location, and nursing shortages impact their earning potential.
Essentially, it depends on how much a healthcare facility needs flight nurses and what that flight nurse can offer.
It’s a combination of supply and demand and education and talent that often predict salary.
Those interested in working as flight nurses need 3 – 5 years of critical care experience as registered nurses.
Furthermore, they must complete various continuing education studies, flight nurse training and certification courses, and credentials related to critical care.
Flight nurses must be in good shape because of the physical demands involved.
Hospitals may turn nurses down if they are over the weight limit or lack the necessary strength and stamina for the job.
Hospitals/organizations may also place height limitations on flight nurse jobs.
It’s because flight nurses work in small aircraft with other flight crew.
Essentially, flight nurses must be able to maneuver around easily while caring for their patients.
For those who work as flight nurses, it can be a gratifying experience. It requires nurses to think quickly and adapt to ever-changing situations and environments.
Ultimately, knowing that you’re at the top of your game and helping others can easily overshadow the challenges of flight nursing and make the rewards much more significant.