So You Want To Be A Flight Nurse?

What could be more exciting! Providing quality critical care to the sickest of patients in a highly unstable transport environment. That's what flight nursing is, and it's what's gaining popularity among critical care nurses who traditionally have worked in the ICU or Emergency Department setting.

So what does it take to become a flight nurse? Critical care experience -- a minimum of three years of it to be considered for a position with the Peoria program. Many of the nurses have much more than this, but this is the one standard that must be met before being granted an interview. Those inquiring about flight positions mistakenly believe that our service is an air paramedic service. This is simply not the case. Approximately 92% of all service missions are interfacility transfers. This means that a critically ill or injured patient is transferred from one hospital's ICU or ED unit to a facility capable of providing a higher level of care. It certainly makes sense that a well-trained critical care nurse would be facilitating this type of transfer. It is in these types of situations that demand an aircraft be staffed by competent critical care RN's. The patient subsequently receives appropriate care by an appropriately trained critical care team.

Beyond three years of critical care experience, flight nurses must possess (or acquire within six months of hire) the following certifications: ACLS, BTLS or Prehospital Trauma Life Support, PALS or Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course, NRP, and TNS or Trauma Nurse Core Curriculum. In addition, flight nurses are trained in field skills such as rapid sequence oral intubation, placement of surgical airways, needle chest thoracentesis, pericardiocentesis, and intraosseous needle placement. Flight nurses must complete yearly airway labs, demonstrate competencies for all types of patient age groups, and attain a minimum of 22 hours of continuing education hours on critical care related topics yearly.

The role of the flight nurse is not limited to patient care and technical skills. Nurses must demonstrate excellence in communication and customer service skills. They must be willing to participate in community service events and participate in the education of prehospital and hospital care providers. Flight nursing is most certainly an "above and beyond" type of job.
OSF Life Flight maintains high standards for nurses who have a vision for this type of work. A high standard for quality care assures us that those whose lives are entrusted to us are in the very best of hands. Excellence, a standard which OSF Life Flight has maintained since its inception in 1984.

Flight Nurse Guidelines

  1. Three years of critical care nursing experience in an ICU or ED.
  2. Possess excellent clinical assessment skills.
  3. Seek opportunities to develop independent decision making skills, i.e. charge role.
  4. Demonstrate an ability to problem solve and be resourceful.
  5. Obtain certifications and seek educational conferences and opportunities related to transport.
  6. Prehospital care experience, i.e. EMT training, Prehospital RN course.
  7. Develop public speaking skills.
  8. Obtain nationally recognized certifications, i.e. CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse), CFRN (Certified Flight Registered Nurse), or CCRN (Certified Critical Care Nurse).

To learn more about this unique critical care role or inquire about other nursing career opportunities afforded at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, please contact our recruiting specialists at 309-655-4008 or 309-655-2036, or complete our on-line application.