What is a Flight Nurse?

A flight nurse (aeromedical nurse) is a highly trained registered nurse who provides on-site emergency care to patients while transferring them to the hospital via aircraft.

Rescue operations and aeromedical evacuations may occur aboard aircraft like jet aircraft, propeller aircraft, or helicopters.

An aeromedical nurse works with an emergency medical crew or critical care air transport team during these situations.

They provide the patient(s) and onboard nurses with additional medical support and expertise.

Aeromedical nurses may also work alone on flights that do not require a medical team or additional medical support.

A medical support team may vary depending on the situation and aircraft.

It includes medical specialists like flight paramedics, physicians, and respiratory practitioners.

In addition, all flights contain a primary aeromedical nurse, pilot, and potential co-pilot.

Flight nurses assist with emergencies when ground units cannot respond to a crisis within a reasonable time.

Healthcare facilities also utilize flight nurses when terrain, weather, or other obstacles make travel difficult or impossible.

For instance, after an earthquake, on icy terrain, near mountainous terrain, and around water.

These environments prevent an ambulance or ground unit from gaining access to injured people.

Flight Nurse Responsibilities

Aeromedical nurses provide in-flight management and medical care to patients transported to a healthcare facility.

As a result, they play a primary role from the beginning of the evacuation until they reach the hospital.

During aeromedical evacuations, these nurses provide a comfortable experience and ensure their patient’s safety.

They evaluate patients’ needs, monitor their vitals, give intravenous therapy (IVs), dress wounds, apply splints, administer medications, and utilize various medical equipment.

Accordingly, medical care depends on the patient’s medical needs.

In addition, flight nurses will coordinate plans with the pilot and medical crew to expedite the process and ensure they follow proper procedures.

Daily Routine

Flight nurse staff are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week

That said, flight nurse crews work in shifts to avoid burnout and fatigue. 

Flight nurses often work six to ten 24-hour shifts per month.

Flight nurses may be on duty for a 24-hour shift during that time.

However, they aren’t continually operating on rescue missions.

Some flight nurses have long downtimes where they aren’t rescuing people from emergencies or traumas.

When flight nurse arrives for their shift, they go over their standard check-up routine.

It involves doing a shift briefing where they cover any issues that may occur.

For instance, they will observe possible weather forecasts, safety issues, maintenance issues with the aircraft,  and any problems that may arise.

After going over the basics, the flight nurse performs an aircraft check-up.

They ensure all (90 +) medications are in good condition and haven’t been used or tampered with.

They also ensure the equipment is in working order and in the correct place in the aircraft.

Flight nurses conduct follow-ups over the last few days once everything is checked and replaced.

Next, they discuss with the crew procedures taken on previous rescue missions and any information they have received.

Finally, flight nurses review any lessons, training, or learning from previous assignments with doctors/patients.

Flight nurses spend a lot of time researching, training, and learning when not on a mission.

However, they’re always ready to operate at a moment’s notice if they get an emergency call.

Psychological Factors

Being a flight nurse requires a high level of education and training.

It also requires analytical thinking and the ability to act quickly and decisively.

Flight nurses must stay calm in intense situations and make effective decisions as a leader.

This career is just as much about controlling emotions and thoughts as education, training, and physical performance.

Flight nurses work in intense situations.

As a result, they must consistently be aware of their environment and quickly assess their patient’s condition.

Overanalyzing or indecision will negatively affect their performance and ability to save lives.

Accordingly, all flight nurses have several things in common when it comes to the mental aspects of their work:

Ability to Remain Positive in Stressful Situations

Because of the emergencies flight nurses experience, no two situations are the same, and no two patients are the same.

Flight nurses must be able to assess their patient’s physical condition and emotional/psychological status.

For instance, patients suffering from trauma may not be completely conscious of their behavior or situation.

They may even be mentally/emotionally unstable due to the trauma.

Flight nurses must be patient, caring, even-tempered, and calm to keep the situation under control.

Ability to Provide Top-Notch Medical Care

During flight missions, flight nurses are in charge of getting to their patients quickly, determining their ailment, stabilizing their condition, and getting them to the hospital or health care facility.

That way, the patient can receive further medical assistance ASAP.

Once they arrive at the emergency scene, these nurses question the patient to understand their ailment better, assess their condition, and provide any necessary medications, treatments, splints, and dress wounds.

They may also use a wheelchair or stretcher to get the patient on the aircraft and into a comfortable position.

That way, they can monitor the patient’s vitals and gather any information for the medical team at the hospital.

Effective Leadership and Communication

Flight nurses must communicate effectively with their medical transport team and crew.

It includes paramedics, physicians, respiratory practitioners, and pilots.

Education and confidence are essential for effective communication and leadership.

Individuals who work in this field require regular continuing education courses and certifications.

It ensures they can adequately assess, communicate, and treat patients under various conditions.

It also ensures flight nurses understand the latest policies, procedures, technologies, and healthcare practices.

Ability to Act Quickly and Effectively

Flight nurses must act quickly and effectively when faced with emergencies to ensure patients get the treatment they need.

Part of this training comes from previous experience working in critical care.

Acting quickly and analytically ensures the patient’s survival and recovery.

No two situations are the same regarding emergencies, so experience is vital.

It is not something that can be read about or watched on a t.v. Nurses can only acquire this skill through years of training in the field.

These are just four traits flight nurses must possess.

Nevertheless, these traits are vital for good Communication and proper patient care.

Critical Care Background

Fight nurses are registered nurses with years of experience and training in critical care.

Most flight nurses must have at least five years of experience as registered nurses before working on an aeromedical team.

In addition, all candidates must take several continuing education courses and certifications before being considered for a position as a flight nurse.

The experience, training, expertise, and mental aptitude required to be a flight nurse are of the utmost importance.

Therefore, hospitals and organizations hiring flight nurses look for those who provide patients with the best care possible.

Flight nurses’ necessary credentials may include several years of emergency care experience, certifications in emergency, trauma, and respiratory care, aeromedical courses, and certification as a certified flight nurse.

The more experience and training a registered nurse can acquire during the years in the emergency care field, the better.

In addition to passing several training and certification courses, flight nurses must also be excellent communicators.

They must be able to think on their toes, assess and treat patients with various ailments, proficiently operate medical machinery, have a team-oriented mentality, and respond quickly to unpredictable situations.

They must also be physically fit and maneuver easily in various environments, including small aircraft.

Flight nurses operate in various environments, including mountainous regions, at the scene of an accident, and in stormy weather.

In war zones, military flight nurses must always remain in peak mental and physical condition to keep patients, team members, and themselves out of danger.

Flight nursing is a challenging and rewarding career.

As a result, nurses who perform at the highest level stand the best chance of being hired for this exceptional profession.


Unlike most emergency response vehicles like ambulances that operate on the ground, flight nurses work in the air.

Accordingly, they require different transportation for moving patients from on-site locations to healthcare facilities.

Flight nurses are often called upon when ground units cannot respond to an emergency for a specific time.

They operate onboard various fixed-wing and propeller or jet-operated aircraft.

It includes jet aircraft, propeller aircraft, helicopters, and other aeromedical vehicles to provide the quickest route to hospitals.

Flight nurses who operate on helicopters fly to locations that are difficult for ground vehicles.

For instance, they’ll fly to the scene of an accident, flood, or earthquake.

The helicopter provides immediate extraction to a healthcare facility so the patient can receive proper treatment.

Helicopters are ideal for getting into challenging locations that fixed-wing aircraft cannot.

As a result, cities utilize helicopters when ground transportation has difficulty responding to specific emergencies.

Traffic, street lights, and other factors inhibit ground vehicles from reaching patients promptly.

Helicopters operate in rural locations where ground vehicles cannot travel.

It includes environments like mountainous terrain, forests, snow-capped mountains, and offshore locations.

Flight nurses onboard fixed-wing aircraft like planes transport patients from one facility to another.

These vehicles cannot land in a large variety of locations like helicopters.

However, they are the quickest mode of transportation for getting from one facility to another.

Healthcare facilities use fixed-wing aircraft when they don’t have the proper equipment or staff to treat a patient requiring emergency care.

A healthcare facility must have an airstrip to facilitate fixed-wing aircraft.

These facilities may also utilize planes to quickly get emergency equipment, medicine, and donor organs, especially when these essentials come from a different state.

Education and Training

Aeromedical nurses have previous experience as registered nurses and post-graduate training as emergency medical or intensive care nurses.

In addition, flight nurses receive training and certification in various areas of emergency care.

It includes hemodynamic support, vasoactive medications, mechanical ventilation, and other intensive care skills.

Flight Nurse Certifications:

Further training and certification courses potential flight nurses may be required to take.

Trauma Certifications

  • 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

Registered nurses must possess the necessary training and certifications to become flight nurses.

They must also have at least five years of experience in a hospital or healthcare facility specializing in intensive care.

Contact professional aeromedical nurses and hiring organizations in your area if you’re unsure what certifications to take.

They can provide a good understanding of the training, education, experience, and certifications needed to land a flight nursing position.

You can also speak with your local hospital (if they have an aeromedical team) and consult the nurses in that department.s

The Importance of Flight Nurse Crews

Flight nurses have repeatedly proved how vital they are to medical care and the survival of patients’ lives.

Flight nurses rescue patients with life-threatening trauma, illnesses, and injuries in challenging areas inaccessible by ground transportation.

These healthcare professionals have ambulances or other medical mobile units.

They can quickly reach accidents, mountainous regions, frozen territories, forests, oceanic sites, and other environments.

They can also travel between medical centers faster than ground vehicles.

These nurses take pride in saving patients’ lives who may not have survived due to a lack of medical intervention.

A flight nursing team is essential for hospitals and military forces worldwide.