No one who’s ever been in a hospital, even as just a visitor, will deny that nursing is a frontline, adrenaline charged job. The nurse you see calmly entering patient information one minute may be racing the next to provide life-saving care.

Yet even among all the demanding nursing specialties, one stands out for its high altitude adrenaline rush. Flight nurses, also known as transport nurses, perform their patient care in helicopters and airplanes.

“These specialized nurses,” says Nurse.org, “provide comprehensive pre-hospital, emergency critical care, and hospital-level care either from the scene of an accident or while transporting inter-facility from hospital to hospital. They are often charged with the care of a vast scope of patient populations.”

It helps to be an adrenaline junkie, Nurse.org agrees. That’s particularly so for nurses working on helicopters. Fixed-wing air ambulances typically transport patients between medical facilities after they’ve been stabilized. Helicopters perform that function too, but they also are summoned to the scene of major accidents and disasters to carry seriously injured victims to trauma centers.

It takes a special personality to perform well, often working alone in the cramped space of an aircraft while doing the same things an ICU or ER nurse in a hospital does.

Flight nurses – rotor wing, air ambulance and commercial medical escort – are almost all RNs. Most jobs require a minimum of 3-5 years’ experience working in an emergency room or ICU. In addition, employers look for certification as a flight registered nurse from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.

Other certifications may also be required, said Bob Bacheler, managing director of Flying Angels, a service that provides RN escorts for non-emergency patients on commercial flights.

Speaking to Minority Nurse, Bacheler said ”165,000 nurses are providing direct patient care in the transport environment.” Men, who comprise about 11% of the nation’s 3.2 million RNs, make up about 18% of flight nurses, he noted.

Average pay for a flight RN is right around $71,000, according to PayScale. But the range is broad. In Seattle, the average for a flight nurse is $88,000.

Kelley Holdren, administrative director and chief flight nurse at the University of Chicago Aeromedical Network, told Nurse.org that pay can be as high as $120,000.

She says the field is competitive and difficult to enter, “but not impossible.” “Flight nurse positions can be found at various teaching/university hospitals and aviation companies that operate in many communities.”

“It’s just an amazing role to be a flight nurse, to be able to make a difference in so many lives, never knowing who you may be picking up to transport, using your critical thinking skills, all while flying around… I couldn’t ask for a better career or office.”


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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Hospitals Ready In Case of ‘Second Wave’ This Fall

Six months into the global coronavirus pandemic, health care experts across the US feel much better prepared to handle a potential “second wave” should it occur this fall.

“We’ve evolved. We’re in a much better state now than we were in the beginning of the pandemic,” Michael Calderwood, associate chief quality officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, told Healthcare Dive. “There’s been a lot of learning.”

In a survey reported by Healthcare Dive, healthcare executives express fewer concerns about a possible surge in patients when the usual flu season begins this fall than they do about staffing and employee burnout.

Hospital finances are by far a broader concern. When the seriousness of the pandemic became apparent the government ordered a shutdown of all but essential services hitting hospitals hard.

The cancellation of elective procedures and the dramatic reduction in other visits cost hospitals and health systems $200.6 billion, according to the American Hospital Association. That has to at least partially factor into the thinking of the 62% of survey respondents who don’t think a similar response would be appropriate again given what is now known about the virus.

Their worries about patient volumes is well-founded, said Dion Sheidy, a partner and healthcare advisory leader at KPMG.

“While we think demand will come back, we’ve seen some flattening on demand in certain aspects that may be the new indicator of the new norm in terms of how people seek care,” Sheidy said.

The rise of telehealth visits is part of that new norm, embraced by a large majority of the 100 healthcare system executives in the survey. As medical offices and many walk-in clinics closed, Medicare and health insurance providers relaxed policies and expanded their coverage of virtual doctor visits. Telehealth visits surged. Many providers saw a doubling, tripling and more of their pre-shutdown business.

The survey respondents support the regulatory loosening. In the survey, 84% support the ability to offer telehealth services to patients located in their homes and outside of designated rural areas. Previously, many insurers only reimbursed telehealth costs for patients who lived far from a doctor or medical facility.

Almost as many executives (79%) support expanding the services that may be provided by telehealth. Smaller, but still substantial percentages favor expanding the type of practitioners allowed to provide virtual care and provide insurance coverage for devices such as computers and cell phones for telehealth.


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Green Key