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What are the Roles and Duties of a Flight Nurse?

Job Descriptions August 4, 2013

When a case is too critical to take by land, emergency crews will call for an air transport team with a flight nurse. Nursing professionals seeking a career that goes beyond the ward of a hospital might find the world of evacuation disaster medical emergency management more romantic. These specialized nurses provide comprehensive care to emerging patients transported via an air service. Like any healthcare professional, a flight nurse must obtain accredited training and pass practical exams to work in the aero-medical industry. Nurses who want to specialize in a diverse field will find that flight nursing is a challenging prospect.

Educational Requirements

Flight nurses are registered nurses who obtain post-graduate education to qualify them for an intensive care air transport service.


A career in this field requires these certifications at minimum:

•Basic Cardiac Life Support
•Advanced Cardiac Life Support
•Pediatric Advanced Life Support
•Neonatal Resuscitation

Trauma training requirements from a nationally recognized program include:

•Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support
•Basic Trauma Life Support
•Trauma Nurse Core Curriculum

In addition, a flight nurse must be a Certified Emergency Nurse, a Certified Flight Registered Nurse or a Critical Care Registered Nurse. The certification requirements vary from state to state, but some regions also require the nurse to complete an EMT-B or EMT-P program.

Employment Experience

Most services request a candidate to complete several years of critical or acute nursing care prior to hire, according to the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association.


The nurse is a member of a transportation team that focuses on critical care. They see a wide range of patients from neonates to organ transplant candidates. Air transport nurses must have critical thinking skills that allow them to develop proactive care plans with the ability to conduct rapid assessments and reassess as needed during flight.

The duties begin in the planning stage of a mission. This includes attending pre-mission briefings, according to medical service of New York. Mission briefings cover patient details, evacuation planning, safety protocols and transport route management.

The team nurse completes an on-site assessment of the situation and patient status then prepares for transport. She provides continuous care from the originating site until relinquishing the patient to a medical facility.

A nurse is the liaison between the accepting care center and the aircrew. This professional submits all requests for medication and procedures during travel to the care facility. The nurse may initiate emergency treatment such as mechanical ventilation and vasoactive medication in-flight without a physician’s orders if necessary.

The nurse is in charge of patient documentation including in-flight charting, assessment and transfer details.

Career Options

There are two types of flight nurses in service. A civilian nurse works for a hospital, government, civil service agency or private evacuation firm. A military nurse is the senior member of an aero-medical evacuation team and part of a military organization. He or she may serve in a war theater or inside the continental United States.

Considerations if You Pursue a Career as a Flight Nurse

Flight nursing is a highly specialized field. Like most healthcare opportunities, the jobs in this industry should continue to expand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the nursing job outlook as growing at a faster than average rate compared to other occupations. Specialty training opens even more doors.

Salaries depend greatly on the organization hiring. On average, an RN flight transport nurse makes just below $70,000 per year. The more experience and training certifications a nurse provides, the higher the pay scale.

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