What is a flight nurse in the Army?
A flight nurse, also known as aeromedical evacuation (AE) nurses and critical care nurses, provides and coordinates medical and traumatic prehospital care for ill or injured patients. They work both on helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
Flight nurses are responsible for the safety and well-being of their patients during air transport in military aeromedical evacuation (AE) missions.
How do you become a flight nurse in the Army?
To become an Army flight nurse, applicants must first be certified as an Advanced Critical Care Registered Nurse (ACCRN) through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
Applicants must also have at least three years of experience working in a level one trauma center before applying for this job or hold at least two years’ experience or 1,500 hours in an emergency room.
Applicants must be US citizens, be under the age of 52 at the time of hire, pass a physical examination background investigation and meet certain other medical requirements. Applicants must also pass an aeromedical evacuation (AE) physiology test administered by Flight Surgeons within 3 months after arrival to the unit.
Qualifications for becoming a flight nurse in the Army
There are many different paths to getting into the Army as a flight nurse. The most common path starts with an associate degree from a college or university. Still, applicants may have experience in the field and take an entrance exam without going back to school.
Either way, it takes five years of experience to apply for this job. A flight nurse in the Army should be a graduate from a registered nursing school and hold a current state license as a Registered Nurse (RN).
Applicants should have an Associate Degree in Nursing or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing preferred but not required. Additionally desired are ACLS certification, BCLS certification, CCRN, and ENPC certification.
The training process for becoming a flight nurse in the Army
Applicants selected to become Army flight nurses must complete the following before they can begin working:
The Army has identified three standardized education programs all accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) that offer the five-year combined baccalaureate and master’s degree.
The first type of program is a hospital-based/corps university model where you train on the job under an RN preceptor while taking courses at nights and weekends toward an associate degree.
After that, you continue your training while working under the RN preceptor and attend school on weekends or evenings toward a bachelor’s degree. The second type of program is at a university where you train for one year before attending college full-time until you get an associate degree in nursing (sometimes called ADN).
Then, you move to another university for two years, where you train and earn a bachelor’s degree. The third type of training program is the same as the second, but after you get your bachelor’s degree, you spend one year at a university getting your advanced critical care nurse (ACCRN) certification.
The job duties of a flight nurse in the Army
Army flight nurses in the Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) role are required to provide medical care resulting in air evacuation of patients from the point of injury or illness to the next higher level of medical care. The AE mission requires that you be skilled and competent in all aspects of aeromedical nursing. You may work under darkness, adverse weather, and combat conditions.
In addition to ambulatory care, AE nurses provide critical care from transport vehicles to medical treatment facilities and during interfacility air transport. You may be assigned to any type of Army aeromedical evacuation team: a six-person Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) Crew or a two-person Critical Care Team with a Physician Assistant.
The Army Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) Nurse is responsible for caring for ill and injured Soldiers assigned to an aeromedical evacuation platform while under conditions of total patient load constraints and continuous flight operations. The AE nurse provides medical treatment resulting in air transport of patients from the point of injury or illness to the next higher level of medical care.
Additionally, AE nurses are required to provide direct patient care in emergencies. The Army Aeromedical Evacuation Nurse may be assigned to any Army aeromedical evacuation platform crew or Critical Care Team with a Physician Assistant. The AE nurse will assist the team in performing aeromedical evacuation procedures.
The Army Aeromedical Evacuation Nurse may direct patient care for an assigned aeromedical evacuation platform or a critical care team with a physician assistant. The army flight nurse must have his ASE certification within three years of being assigned to this role.
Requirements to become a flight nurse
To become an Army Flight Nurse, you need to have:
- Current licensure as a Registered Nurse in the state of practice.
- An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and BLS certification from the American Heart Association (AHA).
- A valid driver’s license and a good driving record.
- Minimum of two (2) years as an RN with acute care experience in an emergency room, intensive care unit (ICU), or critical care unit (CCU).
- Valid certification as a Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN).
- Current certification as a Basic Life Support (BLS) provider from the AHA.
- Active membership with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
How much money do you make as a flight nurse?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2009, registered nurses averaged $66,450 per year. Actual salaries vary greatly by geographic location, work setting, and experience. Flight Nurse Salary in the US Army is between $50,598 to $80,837 per year plus housing allowance and medical benefits.
What is it like to be a flight nurse?
Being a flight nurse in the Army is very rewarding but can also be stressful and demanding. You will work long hours and odd schedules; days of 12-hour shifts are not uncommon. The pay is good, and you get great benefits (medical, dental, and retirement).
Flight nurses must be flexible–you will be assigned to multiple units throughout your career. You must maintain currency on all required training and certifications. This means that you must continue to take classes every year to keep your skills sharp.