Flight Nurse Training and Certification Program Overview

Candidates must meet numerous flight nurse training and certification requirements to obtain careers in this profession.

As a flight nurse, you’ll respond to emergencies and provide pre-hospital critical care to patients needing hospitalization.

Medical care begins at the patient’s location (via aircraft) and continues until you safely arrive at the hospital.

Flight nurses are critical in providing proper patient care and safety throughout transportation.

As a result, they must be highly trained, certified, and experienced in critical care before qualifying for flight nursing jobs.

To become a flight nurse, an individual must first obtain several years of experience as a registered nurse.

Many flight nurse units require nurses to have 2 – 5 years of experience in a hospital specializing in intensive care.

Most institutions also require registered nurses looking for flight nurse positions to hold bachelor’s degrees.

However, the more education, certifications, and training a registered nurse receives, the better it is for the application.

All potential flight nurses must complete post-graduate training as emergency medical or intensive care nurses.

They must also have comprehensive training in hemodynamic support, vasoactive medications, and mechanical ventilation.

Flight Nurse Relevant Certifications:

Additional Training and Certification:

  • Trauma Nurse Core Course
  • Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses
  • Advanced Trauma Life Support
  • Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems
  • Transport Nurse Advanced Trauma Course
  • TNATC Advanced Provider Course

Hazardous Material Training:

  • HazMat
  • NIMS Training IS 100, 200, 700, 800

Most registered nurses do not need to complete all of the previous certifications to qualify for flight nursing positions.

One of the most common credentials registered nurses obtain is the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) certification.

Additional certifications may provide registered nurses with additional skills to help them obtain a flight nursing career.

As a result, aspiring flight nurses should contact an expert flight nurse or recruiter before diving into obtaining certifications.

They’ll help you determine the job qualifications, necessary certifications, and training requirements needed to apply for a position.

Steps to Become a Flight Nurse

There are numerous steps aspiring flight nurses must complete to work in this profession.

It includes becoming a registered nurse, obtaining work experience, and acquiring CFRN certification.

Accordingly, becoming a flight nurse takes years of critical care experience and completing mandatory certifications.

In addition to clinical skills, registered nurses must also display critical thinking, leadership, and a team-oriented mindset.

The following section provides a brief overview of the steps necessary to become a flight nurse.

1. Complete an ADN or BSN Nursing Program

The first step to becoming a flight nurse is to become a licensed registered nurse.

To become a registered nurse, you must complete a nursing program and obtain an ADN or BSN degree.

Most nursing programs at a college or university provide online and in-person classroom options.

It enables nursing students to obtain licensure flexibly and is especially valuable for working registered nurses with an ADN degree who to return to school to obtain their BSN.

To enter the nursing program, students must complete numerous prerequisite courses and maintain their GPA.

It can take roughly 1 – 3 years to complete the necessary perquisites based on the student’s previous education.

If accepted into the nursing program, you can take a two-year ADN or four-year BSN degree.

The two-year ADN degree is fantastic for those interested in entering healthcare quickly.

It enables them to earn an income, gain work experience and support their lifestyles while pursuing their BSN.

Nevertheless, the ADN degree is relatively limited when it comes to career advancement opportunities.

It allows registered nurses to pursue entry-level careers and some specializations.

Most healthcare institutions and critical care specializations prefer registered nurses with a BSN.

As a result, those who want to become flight nurses will want to pursue a BSN degree.

It provides a more comprehensive education making it easier for registered nurses to specialize in various domains.

It also prepares them for more extensive roles and specializations, which some careers require.

That said, there are also six-year MSN and eight-year DNP programs for registered nurses.

These programs enable RNs to become advanced practice registered nurses or APRNs.

Advanced practice registered nurses operate in one of four specializations.

It includes nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives.

Each discipline has specific skills and provides nurses with the broadest scope of practice within their domain.

Nevertheless, most healthcare institutions do not require registered nurses to have an MSN or DNP to become flight nurses.

2. Pass the NCLEX Exam

After completing the BSN program and becoming a nursing school graduate, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing develops the NCLEX to test the competencies of nursing school graduates.

It ensures that graduates have adequate knowledge and training to operate effectively as registered nurses.

It’s also necessary to complete the examination to obtain a registered nurse license.

Upon completing the NCLEX exam, licensed registered nurses may begin applying for various nursing jobs.

3. Obtain Work Experience

The general rule of thumb for registered nurses who want to become flight nurses is the more education, training, and certifications related to critical care and aero-medical care, the better.

If you are a registered nurse, find out what critical care certification courses your hospital offers.

There are many different certificates registered nurses can obtain from Advanced Cardiac Life Support to Certified Flight Registered Nurse certification.

It’s important to mention that not all of the following certifications are necessary to obtain a flight nursing job.

As a result, you’ll want to consult existing flight nurses and hiring departments to determine their requirements.

Flight Nurse Applicable Certifications:

  • Basic Life Support Certification
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse
  • Certified Emergency Nurse
  • Certified Flight Registered Nurse
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support
  • Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Certification
  • CPR Certification
  • EMS Certification/Licence

Additional Training and Certification:

  • Trauma Nurse Core Course
  • Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses
  • Advanced Trauma Life Support
  • Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems
  • Transport Nurse Advanced Trauma Course
  • TNATC Advanced Provider Course

Hazardous Material Training:

  • HazMat
  • NIMS Training IS 100, 200, 700, 800

You can also pursue some of these certification courses online through a hybrid program.

Hybrid programs provide a mixture of online and in-person training.

The previously mentioned courses will help you acquire the education and training you need to obtain a flight nursing position.

They also provide you with more opportunities in other healthcare and nursing fields.

Most importantly, consult a flight nurse organization or hiring facility to determine their certification requirements.

It will save you time and money because you’ll know which certificates to obtain.

Most professional flight nurse positions also require experienced registered nurses to obtain critical care experience.

As a result, you’ll want to acquire 2 – 5  years of work experience in critical care or trauma care nursing.

This experience will help train you adequately for aeromedical positions once you qualify for a job.

It also enables you to prepare more effectively for the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) certification. 

4. Obtain CFRN Certification

The final step to becoming a flight nurse (minus applying for employment) is to obtain CFRN certification.

Acquiring CFRN or Certified Registered Flight Nurse certification demonstrates to employers that you have a fundamental understanding of flight nursing and the necessary skills to be an exceptional component of the aeromedical team.

BCEN recommends that registered nurses have at least two years of work experience before taking the certification exam.

It’s also important that aspiring flight nurses spend several months studying for the certification exam to obtain the best results.

That said, there is no minimum work experience requirement necessary to take the CFRN exam.

Lastly, nurses who work on ambulances and ground units may acquire Certified Transport Registered Nurse certification.

The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) delivers these exams to test a nurse’s competencies in these domains.

It ensures they have adequate training, knowledge, and experience to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.

5. Apply for Flight Nursing Jobs

Once you’ve obtained the necessary career experience and certifications, you may apply for different flight nursing positions.

Nevertheless, you may want to sit with a professional resume consultant before applying for the position to ensure your resume is updated and highlights your skillset.

You’ll also want to study and review common flight nurse interview questions to help you prepare for the interview.

Some locations are highly competitive regarding flight nursing career opportunities.

 As a result, you’ll want to ensure you’re adequately prepared and can display your competencies, skillsets, and leadership.

What Skills do Flight Nurses Need?

As previously mentioned, obtaining critical care and trauma care experience is highly beneficial to becoming a flight nurse.

Acquiring applicable credentials like the CFRN certification can also help applicants obtain flight nurse careers more effectively.

Being a flight nurse requires fast thinking and critical decision-making due to the varied and extreme nature of the job.

As a result, nurses must demonstrate critical thinking, analytical skills, leadership, and a team-oriented mindset.

They must also have a positive attitude and perspective that enable them to keep calm and push forward in stressful times.

Lastly, flight nursing can be physically demanding requiring nurses to maintain good health throughout their careers.

Asprign flight nurses must be able to lift heavy objects regularly and have good cardiovascular performance.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Flight Nurse?

The length of time needed to become a flight nurse varies depending on the individual’s prior education and training.

For individuals with no prior healthcare experience or licensure, it can take roughly 5 – 10 years to become a flight nurse.

It includes becoming a registered nurse, gaining career experience, and acquiring CFRN certification.

Trained registered nurses can become flight nurses more quickly, especially those with critical care or trauma experience.

With adequate work experience, a qualified registered nurse can become a flight nurse within a few months by obtaining certification and preparing adequately for the position.

Nevertheless, employment depends on the existing registered nurse’s career experience, training, and preparedness.