What is a Flight Paramedic?

A flight paramedic provides pre-hospital medical care and transportation to patients outside a healthcare facility.

Unlike paramedics using ground-based ambulatory vehicles, these professionals work on board various aircraft.

It includes jet aircraft, propeller aircraft, and helicopters.

Healthcare facilities and emergency departments utilize flight paramedics in specific emergencies.

For instance, emergency departments use flight paramedics when ground-based vehicles cannot reach a patient.

They’ll also use flight paramedics when a patient requires immediate transportation due to a severe injury or illness.

Flight Paramedic Responsibilities

Flight paramedics are responsible for providing adequate care for injured, trauma, or ill patients.

For instance, these EMS specialists assess their patient’s conditions and provide appropriate treatment interventions.

They will administer medications, injections, and IVs, stabilize injuries/illnesses and provide necessary wound care.

They also provide advanced life support during emergencies and transport patients to emergency facilities via aircraft.

As a result, flight paramedics must possess exceptional training, communication, and analytical skills.

Flight Paramedic Duties:

  • Assess the patient’s condition
  • Treat various injuries, trauma, and illnesses 
  • Administering medications, injections & IVs
  • Utilize various medical equipment
  • Delivering advanced life support in emergencies
  • Performing specific on-site surgical procedures, if necessary
  • Transport patients to emergency facilities for further care

Daily Routine

Flight paramedics operate 24/7 to ensure patients receive adequate care during emergencies.

Nevertheless, flight crews operate in various shifts to prevent staff burnout and unnecessary fatigue. 

Flight paramedics may work a traditional twelve-hour shift at an emergency department or urgent care facility.

However, some paramedics may be on duty for 24-hour shifts in particular situations.

Despite the longer shifts, flight paramedics are not always working on rescue missions.

They receive a decent amount of downtime, which they use to address various duties between emergencies.

When flight paramedic arrives at work, they review their standard check-ups and participate in briefings.

It involves updating work duties, discussing potential issues, and reviewing daily concerns.

After their check-up and briefing, flight paramedics will assess the aircraft to ensure it’s fully operational.

Flight paramedics will review medications to ensure their adequately stocked and ready for use.

They also assess and monitor medical equipment to determine whether it’s working appropriately.

Next, flight paramedics complete follow-ups and discuss crew procedures from previous rescue missions.

They also review lessons, training, or learning from previous assignments with doctors/patients.

Being a flight paramedic requires consistent training and education

As a result, they often do research, train for operations, and educate themselves on the latest practices and procedures.

It’s necessary to mention that each aeromedical team has its daily routines.

Therefore, the above routine is an example of some tasks performed by flight paramedics.

Additional Resources:

Education and Training

Flight paramedics face many unpredictable situations, environments, illnesses, and injuries.

As a result, it’s essential they’re highly trained and certified to perform critical medical assessments and treatments.

Flight paramedics receive training on a variety of injuries and ailments.

For instance, they learn how to administer appropriate medications to manage various injuries and illnesses.

They also receive training on handling spinal injuries, bone fractures, burns, cardiac arrest, and other medical issues.

Medical Intervention Training:

  • Spinal injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree burns
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Obstetrics
  • Airway management
  • Blood circulation management
  • Wound management

In addition to medical training, flight paramedics learn to operate various onboard medical devices and tools.

It includes defibrillators, heart monitors, cardiac devices, IV drops, balloon pumps, and other equipment.

Medical Equipment Training:

  • Defibrillators
  • Heart monitors
  • Cardiac monitors
  • Balloon pumps
  • IV drips
  • Medical kits
  • Inflatable splints
  • Airway management devices and tools
  • Stretchers and boards
  • Wheelchairs
  • Medication delivery devices

And other devices and tools needed to provide adequate patient care during medical emergencies.

Flight paramedics dramatically increase patients’ survivability by providing comprehensive emergency trauma care.

They respond immediately to emergencies without transportation issues ground ambulances regularly face.

They also transport patients quickly to facilities for advanced care and transport vital medical equipment when needed.

Necessary Skills

Working as a flight paramedic requires exceptional medical training and expertise.

However, there are numerous physical and psychological skills flight paramedics must master to operate in this profession.

It includes analytical skills, empathy, time management, physical agility, communication, and interpersonal skills.

Each aspect of mental and physical aptitude ensures adequate patient care.

The following section explores these skills in detail to better understand what’s necessary to be a flight paramedic.

Analytical Skills

Flight paramedics respond to unpredictable emergencies and crises.

As a result, they must possess excellent analytical, reasoning, and critical thinking skills.

Solving unforeseen medical issues is necessary to keep patients stable, healthy, and alive.

Its also necessary to understand how to treat various injuries, trauma, and illnesses.

Empathy

Empathy is vital in all areas of healthcare.

Patients who experience injuries, trauma, and severe illness may be shocked, scared, and unable to process their emotions.

Therefore, flight paramedics must have high empathy and emotional intelligence.

It enables them to calm patients, provide support and deliver timely medical care with fewer concerns and patient issues.

Time Management

Excellent time management is vital when dealing with medical emergencies.

Every second counts, and there’s little room for uncertainty, unpreparedness, or poor organization.

As a result, flight paramedics must have outstanding time management skills to ensure patients receive timely care.

Physical Dexterity

Aeromedical EMS teams require paramedics and flight nurses to possess adequate strength, endurance, and mobility.

These professionals lift, move and manage patients during emergencies and transportation.

They also utilize the heavy equipment needed to provide adequate medical care.

Therefore, most healthcare facilities employing flight paramedics mandate specific physical agility standards.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Flight paramedics work with other medical professionals, including flight nurses, registered nurses, physicians, and hospital staff.

As a result, they must possess good communication and interpersonal skills.

Effectively communicating patients’ needs with hospital staff and coordinating care is vital to ensuring they receive proper medical aid.

It’s also essential for helping patients understand their treatment and aiding them through challenging medical situations.

Ground Paramedics vs. Flight Paramedics

A primary difference between standard ambulatory paramedics and flight paramedics is their mode of transportation.

Ground-based ambulatory paramedics provide emergency medical care from an ambulance or wheeled mobile response vehicle.

It allows them to traverse various streets, roads, and highways to provide on-site emergency care to patients.

Ambulatory vehicles typically feature various medications, medical equipment, and protective gear.

Hospitals, emergency departments, and urgent care centers use these ambulatory vehicles when they can adequately reach patients.

Comparatively, flight paramedics operate out of jet aircraft, propeller aircraft, and helicopters.

As a result, they work onboard air-based medical vehicles to reach patients inaccessible by ground vehicles.

Flight paramedics travel across mountainous terrain, oceanic environments, snowy weather other challenging environments.

Thus, they can perform aeromedical evacuations for patients in difficult-to-reach locations.

Working from air-based medical vehicles allows them to reach emergencies faster than ground transportation.

For instance, flight paramedics can arrive at a large-scale automobile accident scene faster than an ambulance.

It enables them to provide life-saving care promptly.

Finally, flight paramedics work with a pilot instead of a driver to reach their destination.

They may also work with a flight nurse to ensure adequate patient care.

How to Become a Certified Flight Paramedic

Those who want to become certified flight paramedics must first obtain experience as ambulatory paramedics.

Most healthcare facilities require 2 – 5 years of experience before accepting candidates.

In addition, there are numerous training and certification programs to complete before working as a flight paramedic.

It includes advanced cardiac life support, pre-hospital trauma life support, PALS, NRP, and other certifications.

The following list contains different certifications paramedics take to qualify for flight assignments.

Flight Paramedic Certifications:

Not all certificates are required to become a flight paramedic.

Nevertheless, obtaining numerous certificates to display core competencies, dedication, and professional skills is helpful.

Flight paramedics receive as many as 80 percent of critical care calls.

As a result, having adequate critical care knowledge and field experience as an ambulatory paramedic is essential.

Many facilities have a higher number of applicants than available positions.

It makes obtaining flight paramedic jobs challenging, especially for less experienced individuals.

Accordingly, obtaining certifications in critical care and acquiring work experience is vital to qualify for this position.

Finally, it’s necessary to meet the physical and psychological requirements to become a flight paramedic.

Most facilities have physical height, weight, strength, and endurance demands.

They also require candidates to have compassion and outstanding analytical, organizational, leadership, and communication skills to manage emergencies effectively.

It’s beneficial for aspiring flight paramedics to consult a local aeromedical EMS facility or flight paramedic unit.

They can provide vital information to help paramedics prepare for this high-level career.