So You Want To Spread Your Wings and Fly?
Good for you! Having a goal such as this in your sights is a fantastic motivator, and can help guide your path. Flight nursing is a rewarding, yet challenging profession filled with highs and lows, and intellectual and physical challenges in an ever-changing practice environment.
So what does it take to become a flight nurse?
Each program has requirements that are unique to that program. Information provided here will be specific to Airlife Denver.
What are the basic requirements?
- To apply at Airlife Denver, a Registered Nurse (RN) must have a minimum of five years of critical care experience: this can be ED or ICU. (We prefer a combination of the two.) BSN is preferred but not required.
- Why five years of critical care? The acuity of patients that are transported via critical care teams are the sickest of the sick, requiring complex knowledge and high-level skills. The care environment is constantly changing, the flight teams work autonomously and must be able to handle these high acuity patients confidently. A strong background in critical care provides a solid foundation on which a flight nurse can build.
- Airlife Denver also has specialty teams, such as Neonatal and High Risk OB.
- OB nurses seeking a position with Airlife must have a minimum of five years tertiary experience in high risk obstetrics.
- The neonatal transport team consists of a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and either a Neonatal RN or a Respiratory Therapist with neonatal experience. The minimum required experience for the neonatal transport team is three years.
A solid base of experience and sound critical thinking skills are essential, as the flight nurse is often faced with situations that require rapid, definitive and life-saving intervention.
What kind of person makes a successful flight nurse?
Becoming a successful flight nurse goes beyond the basics of critical care experience. Because of the nature of the profession, the unique and changing care environments, and the interface with a wide variety of people, the flight nurse must be able to adapt quickly to changing environments, be creative at problem solving, be customer service oriented even under extreme pressure, and be willing to push the levels of their knowledge and skill.
A successful flight nurse is inquisitive, assertive, and confident yet humble. Flight nurses must be willing and able to function on a high level, whether standing in an ICU or ER, or out in the middle of a darkened roadway in the rain. Professionalism and tact are paramount, as delicate situations are the norm.
What if I'm a Paramedic or EMT?
Paramedics and EMTs are very valuable assets to flight programs, providing a wealth of pre-hospital experience that is invaluable. Each program has unique crew configurations based on what works best for that particular program.
While AirLife Denver has traditionally maintained a nurse-nurse configuration for our air and ground transports, we are pleased to introduce Paramedics to our transport teams. Paramedics hired by AirLife Denver will participate in patient care on both air and ground transports, while EMTs will strictly assist with our critical care ground transports.
Paramedics interested in participating in patient care on our flight teams should bring the following experience and apply online via our link to HealthONE open positions:
- Must be a current Colorado-certified Paramedic.
- Nationally Registered Paramedics preferred.
- CCEMTP, F-PC certification is highly desirable.
- ACLS, PALS, BLS and NRP credentials.
- Minimum of 5 years of full-time experience with a 911 response agency.
- We prefer critical care or flight transport experience.
- Ability and willingness to work a variety of shifts rotating through our bases.
EMTs and Paramedics seeking to work solely with our critical care ambulances on AirLife Denver ground transports are employees of AMR. Interested EMTs and Paramedics are encouraged to contact AMR for more detail on basic requirements for this role.
What if I'm a Pilot?
Rotor-Wing and Fixed-Wing Pilots, just like the EMTs who drive our teams on ground transports, are responsible for getting our teams and patients from pick-up to destination safely and timely. Pilots interested in flying with AirLife Denver should contact Air Methods Corporation for Rotor-Wing or for Fixed-Wing.
What can I do in the meantime?
Just because you don't have the minimum amount of critical care experience now doesn't mean you can't bolster your professional arsenal. Due to the wide variety of patients cared for by critical care transport teams, flight nurses are required to maintain a variety of certifications. These include:
- ACLS ( Advanced Cardiac Life Support)
- NRP ( Neonatal Resuscitation Program)
- PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support)
- TNATC ( Transport Nurse Advanced Trauma Care)
- BLS (Basic Life Support)
- CCRN ( Certification in Critical Care Nursing)
- CFRN (Certification in Flight Nursing) or CEN ( Certification in Emergency Nursing) are highly recommended.
It is advantageous for interested parties to start working on any or all of these certifications as soon as possible. Information on various classes can be obtained through the American Heart Association, and the Emergency Nurses Association.
It is also suggested that candidates have a working knowledge of 12 lead EKG interpretation. Taking basic and advanced EKG classes early, and then practicing your skills can be invaluable to later success as a flight nurse.
Certification and experience in Intra-aortic Balloon Pump is not a requirement, but would be extremely valuable and could be a worthy project for a critical care nurse who has a few years to wait.
Obtaining experience in the critical care of the pediatric population is highly recommended, so spending time in a pediatric ED or ICU would be a beneficial adjunct.
Are there physical requirements?
Due to the physical limitations of some of the vehicles in which we provide care, there is a 225-lb weight limit at Airlife Denver. Candidates are not required to pass a physical fitness test, but must be reasonably fit in order to handle the day-to-day rigors of the job.
From all of us at Airlife Denver, we wish you the best in your quest. We are here to help, our staff and crew would be happy to answer any further questions you might have. Please peruse our website for further information.
Thank you for your interest in flight nursing, and good luck!!!