Due to the high risk of fires, explosions, falls, and chemical exposure, working on an oil rig can be a very hazardous job. For this reason, many companies in the oil and gas industry employ oil rig nurses who work onsite. These full-time nurses provide medical care, along with emergency care, for injured or sick oil rig workers. Since many rigs do not have doctors working onsite, nurses are responsible for making major medical decision for their patients. Many oil rig nurses work 12-hour shifts for two or three weeks at a time. This is normally followed by two or three weeks off, which is usually the normal rotation for oil rig workers. Some oil rig hire for six months on and six months off. Oil rig nurses generally work on offshore oil rigs, which means they must be okay with working on the water instead of on dry land.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for registered nurses in the oil and gas extraction industry is $78,820. Due to the hazards involved on certain drilling sites, such as an offshore one, oil rig nurses can generally expect to earn a higher salary.

Beginning Salary

For oil rig nurses just starting out on the job, they can expect to earn a beginning salary of $45,000 to $80,000.

Key Responsibilities

Because most oil companies do not employ doctors, oil rig nurses are the sole caregiver for their patients and are in charge of making important medical decisions. Some of the other key responsibilities and job duties of an oil rig nurse include giving health advice, ordering necessary medical supplies, assessing the condition of their patients, and ensuring all medical records are up to date.

Necessary Skills

Like most nurses, those who work on an oil rig must be able to spend a lot of time on their feet. They must also have the ability to make quick, split-second decisions and work on their own without a lot of supervision. They must demonstrate excellent first-aid skills and diagnostic skills, along with knowing about common illnesses and conditions. Oil rig nurses work long hours for many days in a row.

Degree and Education Requirements

Oil rig nurses must first earn either a two-year degree from an accredited registered nursing program or a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN). Both kinds of nursing degrees will also require certification and licensing in their home state to practice as a nurse. All nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing. Some of the coursework that is normally required when pursuing a nursing degree include science courses such as anatomy, microbiology, psychology, physiology, chemistry and some liberal arts courses. Because of the challenges of working as an oil rig nurse, many oil companies prefer to hire nurses with a bachelor’s degree. They also prefer to hire those with previous nursing experience, but not necessarily in the oil and gas industry. Emergency care experience is very beneficial. Some offshore drilling rigs would also like their nurses to complete a course in advanced life support.

Pros and Cons (or Rewards and Challenges) of This Position

One of the major pros of working as an oil rig nurse is that their work schedule allows for extended periods of not having to work. Under normal circumstances, they would generally work for two or three straight weeks and then they get two or three weeks off. They also work with little supervision and are often the lead medical person in charge of a team of medics. Another major perk is that oil rig nurses will earn more than they would by working in a hospital setting. While there are many rewards, there are many challenges as well. Oil rig nurses usually work 12 to 14 hour shifts for 14 or 21 days without any time off and without being able to go offsite. These nurses need to make their own medical decisions, have many responsibilities, and take the lead in emergency situations, which can be very stressful.

Getting Started

If you have decided to pursue a career as an oil rig nurse, there are certain things you can do that can help you get the best start. Besides getting the proper education, you should also gain experience in emergency care. If you desire to work on an offshore drilling rig, you should also get experience in treating divers. Gaining knowledge and understanding of how drilling rigs work, and what kinds of onsite dangers are present, can also be of great benefit when pursuing your career. If you have a desire to work on an offshore drilling rig, you may want to first see how you handle being at sea for several day at a time. In getting started in this career, you will want to sharpen your first aid skills which include knowing how to do CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, stopping heavy bleeding, treating hypothermia, and using an automatic external defibrillator (AED).

Future Outlook

While there are no statistics that state the future outlook for oil rig nurses, it is a fact that there are oil rigs all around the world and they all require qualified medical personnel to be onsite. Some of the oil companies that are hiring for oil rig nurses include Hobark International, Progressive Global Energy, Halliburton, and Chevron. Getting a job as an oil rig nurse is largely contingent upon the demand for the products this industry produces. According to the BLS, in the United States alone, there were just over 177,000 employees in the oil and gas extraction industry in December of 2016. In March of 2017, that number had increased to over 180,000, which means this industry has been adding more employees. Combined with the fact there are currently 497 offshore rigs around the world, it shows you that there is a need for oil rig nurses and the outlook is very good.

If you have been thinking of becoming a nurse and would like to work in a fast-paced environment that will be a little more adventurous than working in a hospital setting, you may want to consider a career as an oil rig nurse.

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