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Flight Nurse Career

How to Become a Flight Nurse

Planes, helicopters, or jets. All of these flight options are used by medical professionals to get transport patients to a nearby hospital for care. Aircrafts are often used in emergency situations to get patients to the best hospital as quickly as possible. And who is up in the air, taking care of patients as they quickly fly to the best care facility? Flight nurses.

Learn more in this guide about what it takes to become a flight nurse.

Medical helicopter
Perioperative nurse in surgery

What Is a Flight Nurse?

Registered nurses who are looking for a unique and exciting environment may find a passion for becoming a flight nurse. Sometimes called an aircraft, helicopter, or transport nurse, flight nurses have many of the same responsibilities as registered nurses, but take it to a new level as they deal with offbeat and interesting patients from the air.

Different types of flight nursing job tend to be similar, but there is one important decision flight nurses need to make in regards to their career. Flight nurses have the option to choose a civilian or military career path, and those type of career positions are considerably different.

Civilian flight nurses typically work for public or private hospitals or clinics. They often are part of Life Flight and other transport operations to move patients to a better facility for their care. This can involve transporting newborn babies to a different hospital, moving patients from emergency situations to a hospital, transferring patients to a new location, working with organ donation, and more.

Military flight nursing involves nurses who are enlisted in the Air Force. Their role is to give nursing care to military members while transporting them to a different location. This may be transporting them away from a dangerous situation to a field hospital, transferring them to a new location that is better equipped to care for them, and more. Military flight nurses Work specifically with military members who often have battle injuries, and the care they give is vastly different than civilian flight nurses.

What Does a Flight Nurse Do?

Flight nurses take the responsibilities of an RN to new heights—literally. They are the ones on board the jet or helicopter, taking care of patients as they fly. Flight nurses are responsible for checking vitals, keeping records, administering medication, performing medical procedures, and more. Often aircrafts will have flight physicians that nurses assist in caring for patients, but in the event that there is no flight physician on board, a flight nurse takes charge. Flight paramedics may help flight nurses in their work in caring for patients while they are on the aircraft.

Flight nurses are also in charge of working with the medical crews on the ground so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to care. They are usually in constant communication with the ground crews to ensure that when they land, the patient can be immediately transferred to their care. 

Flight nurses also have to ensure that there is proper medical equipment ready to take care of the patient onboard the plane or helicopter. Flight nurses are responsible for many of the same things that emergency nurses are responsible for, but there is an added factor of increased time pressure, more emergent situations, and air travel involved for a flight nurse. 

What Education Does a Flight Nurse Need?

The educational requirements for flight nurses begin with becoming an RN. WGU offers a prelicensure nursing degree that gives students the chance to get their RN and BSN at the same time. Becoming an RN is the crucial first step to becoming a flight nurse, as flight nurses require licensure in order to qualify for flight jobs.

While you don’t have to get a degree to do this, most hospitals are hoping to get magnet status which involves having nurses that are licensed AND have a bachelor’s degree. Getting a bachelor’s degree in nursing is a great way to make yourself more competitive for nursing jobs in a hospital. Similarly, a master’s degree in nursing can give you that additional edge over competition, and help you be qualified and credentialed for raises and promotions in a hospital or clinic. Flight nurse hopefuls may find that a bachelor’s or master’s degree helps them be more qualified and competitive for transport nursing positions. 

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, MO, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,385 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
    Chief Nursing Officer
    Quality Director
    Clinical Nurse Leader
    Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality.

Compare degrees
This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...

An online BSN degree program for registered...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for greater responsibility:

  • Time: 82% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
    Chief Nursing Officer
    Quality Director
    Clinical Nurse Leader
    Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

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Our Online University Degree Programs Start on the First of Every Month, All Year Long

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

Learn about online college admissions at WGU.


Nurse and helicopter

What Skills Does a Flight Nurse Need?

The exact skills that flight nurses need will vary largely on the type of nurse they want to become, where they will work, etc. There are additional skills and educational requirements for those who want to become flight nurses including:

  • Neonatal resuscitation
  • Pediatric advanced life support
  • Advanced cardiac life support
  • Prehospital trauma life support
  • Ventilator training
  • Experience with overnight and on-call rotations
  • Trauma and critical care experience
  • Strong leadership particularly in stressful situations
  • Strong communication in all types of environments
  • Flight experience can be beneficial

Flight nurses have unique requirements for their job that many nurses do not share. While emergency nurses work with the same kind of patients, flight nurses have the added stress of emergency transportation situations.

How Much Does a Travel Nurse Make?

$65,000

Flight nurses make an average annual salary of $65,000 per year. This salary level vary greatly based on the location where you work, the kind of flight nurse you are, and the level of education that you have. If you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you may be eligible for promotions and raises in the flight nursing field, upping your salary and giving you more options in the field. 

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

15%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a 15% growth in flight nurse jobs by 2026. There is a nursing shortage around the United States, and that includes flight nurses. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities are all needing more registered nurses to care for patients in a productive and efficient way. If you’re considering becoming a flight nurse, now is a great time to get started on the path.

Where Do Travel Nurses Work?

Varies

The work environment for flight nurses can vary, and is extremely unique. Flight nurses may be employed by hospitals or trauma centers, or may be employed by fire stations or search and rescue operations. Flight nurses will have an office or clinic that is their base, and then will go up into the helicopter or airplane to do their work. Flight nursing is extremely stressful but extremely rewarding. Flight nurses may be expected to work all hours, every day of the week, on holidays, and for long shifts. Flight nurses also almost exclusively deal with emergency situations which can be draining. But flight nurses are vital to a well functioning healthcare system, and the care they provide is irreplaceable.

Interested in Becoming a Flight Nurse?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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