Flight nursing, also known as transport nursing, is the intensive care for critical or emergency status patients in a transport situation. These patients are usually transported by helicopter, but less critical patients may also be transported by commercial airlines. The speed and efficiency of traveling by air is beneficial for the patient and in many cases may save the patient’s life. A variety of patients are treated, transported and cared for by flight nursing, including trauma, neonatal, pediatric, cardiac, and obstetrical.
Flight nurses work in a high stress environment and must be able to respond to a wide variety of problems in a rapid, decisive manner. Nurses working in these extreme conditions possess extensive nursing knowledge and skills, are able to stay calm in the face of chaotic situations and can make the right decisions within seconds. Flight nurses usually have a clinical background in emergency or critical care.
The number one concern of flight nurses while in transport is safety, for themselves and the patients under their care. A flight nurse is usually the member of a team during transport. Sometimes this is a two-person team, including only the flight nurse and a pilot. Other times it will include one additional crew member, such as a paramedic or physician, for a three-person team. Usually a physician is not on board during transport, and the flight team keeps radio communication with a doctor on the ground for medical supervision.
The idea of having nurses care for patients on board airplanes first surfaced in the 1930s, although it wasn’t until the next decade that in-flight nursing became a reality. The first flight nurses worked for the United States military or the American Red Cross. Today flight nurses are employed on medical aircraft in a number of capacities — air rescue operations, care-flight ambulances and air evacuation services.
Want to become involved in flight nursing? You will need an advanced nursing degree, RN to BSN degree, or LPN to BSN degree. Or you can learn more about these programs from the University of Phoenix:
» Bachelor of Science in Nursing
» Master of Science in Nursing