A flight nurse is a medically trained nurse that provides medical care to patients during very important transportation flights. These nurses can provide this care in helicopters or planes, usually for patients in dire circumstances. Flight nurses perform emergency medical care to these patients as they are being transported from one place to another, usually to a medical team awaiting their arrival. Not only do these nurses perform emergency medical care procedures, but must do so in extreme conditions.

Flight nurses can work in civilian and military sectors. According to FlightNursing.com, these registered nurses are “highly trained to administer all-encompassing critical care, emergency and pre-hospital care for patients of all kinds during rescue operations or aeromedical evacuation on board jet aircraft, propeller aircraft or helicopter.” In the civilian world, these nurses mostly work in emergency situations, while those who work in the military sector work in emergency situations, but in more extreme settings.


While the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average Registered Nurse makes around $68,000 each year, Nurse Frontier points out that flight nurses make a little more than the nurses on the ground because of the incredible demands of the career; making an average of $72,000 per year.

Beginning Salary

Those just beginning their careers in flight nursing should expect to make between $45-$60,000 each year, while those who have more than 5 years of experience tend to make anywhere between $70-$100,000 each year.

Key Responsibilities

Not only must flight nurses have all the knowledge of a registered nurse, but they usually must have some basic flight knowledge as well. They may be required to assist with navigation or other flight duties.

A flight nurse’s first and most important responsibility is the patient. They must collect necessary paperwork, follow physicians’ instructions, and transfer said information to the receiving medical facility. Most of the time, these nurses are responsible for administering emergency medical care, including but not limited to, first aid treatment and resuscitation. They are typically the people that are solely responsible for the patient and their well-being during the flight.

Necessary Skills

Like most nurses, flight nurses must have an extremely high working knowledge of caring for patients. They must be able to work in extreme situations, think fast, and think outside of the box. They must be able to care for patients who are in extreme conditions and do whatever is necessary to keep them safe while in transport.

Flight nurses must also have a basic knowledge of flight. These nurses are expected to be able to strap patients into flights, help with navigation, and sometimes communicate via radio. These nurses must be fast and critical thinkers, calm under pressure, and have an extremely high medical knowledge base.

Degree and Education Requirements

Like every other nurse, flight nurses must first complete a nursing program and obtain their nursing degree. After you’ve passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses and have become a registered nurse, you’ll need to start gaining some experience.

Most flight nurse jobs require that you have at least a Bachelor’s in nursing with some experience in extreme settings, like emergency rooms or intensive/critical care units. According to EveryNurse.org, the most common educational path for flight nurses includes earning an undergraduate nursing degree, a graduate degree in nursing/emergency nursing, and then sitting for the Certified Flight Registered Nurse Examination that is offered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. Some flight nurses go even further and obtain their post-graduate degree.

The average flight nurse has gone through around 6 years of nursing education and has at least 3 years of emergency nursing experience.

Pros and Cons

Flight nurses could probably agree that the two best things about the job are the skills they obtain and the salary increase. Flight nurses tend to hone their nursing abilities for the better, as they typically the sole guardians of the patient and are responsible for their care. These types of nurses also typically make more than the nurses on the ground. And if you’re looking for a more dynamic and thrilling lifestyle, flight nursing could be the answer.

Like most things in life, being a flight nurse isn’t all good. The most complained about aspect of this career is the hours. Nurses who work in a hospital setting for example, usually work 12-hour shifts throughout the week. Flight nurses on the other hand, usually work less days during the week but only because they tend to work 24-hour shifts. Of course there is also an element of danger in this career, and it can be emotionally exhausting.

Getting Started

Before considering this career, you must be sure of yourself first. You must know that you will be able to perform under high-pressure, follow instructions, lead a team, and face dangerous situations. Uncertainty is not a trait of flight nurses.

If you’re thinking about becoming a flight nurse, you’ll first need to work towards obtaining your nursing degree. It is vital to at least obtain your undergraduate degree in nursing. After receiving your nursing license, you can begin working in the field. Jobs in the emergency room or critical/intensive care units are more ideal if you’re looking for a job as a flight nurse.

While you’re gaining some real world experience, it would be best to continue your education and obtain a graduate degree in nursing. You could even specialize your graduate degree with something more relevant, like emergency nursing. You’ll need to work hard in emergency situations while you are gaining your work experience. There are even certain certificate programs you can attend that specialize in emergency nursing, trauma, or critical care to further your experience.

If you’re thinking of entering the field of flight nursing in the military sector, you must first be a registered nurse with an undergraduate degree. Then you must join the military and go through their training process.

Future Outlook

Since there aren’t as many flight nurses as there are hospital nurses for example, flight nursing jobs are harder to come by. This is one of the many reasons why there are so many qualifications and requirements for getting the job. There are far less flight nurses than any other kind of nurse.

While there are fewer flight nursing jobs than other types of nursing jobs, the demand for them is still growing. Just like any other healthcare profession, the outlook for employment is growing fast and will continue to grow. More and more facilities are acquiring or using medical-flight options; another reason why the outlook is good.

Flight nurses can find jobs in the military, public, or private sectors. Private medical companies, like ones that provide ambulances and medical helicopters, tend to pay the most but have the most requirements. Public hospitals may pay less than privatized companies, but there seem to be more available jobs in these settings.

Flight nurses have become an integral part of the healthcare system, risking safety to ensure that their patients receive the best care possible. Flight nurses are a special kind of nurse, working under pressure, working extremely long hours, and risking their own safety to help save lives.

Related resource:

Cheapest Accredited Online RN-BSN Programs to Most Expensive- A Complete List