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Flight Nurse Medical Escorts

Flight nurses are registered nurses who provide comprehensive pre-hospital, emergency, and critical care to a patient aboard an aircraft. They are an integral part of an air medical transportation team. Flight medics and respiratory therapists often accompany a flight nurse. However, a flight physician leads the team on special occasions. Scenarios where medical transportation is needed, including aeromedical evacuation and rescue operations aboard helicopters or jet aircraft call for the services of a flight nurse.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF A FLIGHT NURSE

The duties performed by a flight nurse while on duty include:

  1. Assess the needs of individual patients while they are on board the aircraft.
  2. Commence emergency management of the patient in the absence of a flight physician.
  3. Ensure that the patient’s safety and comfort are maintained and improved.
  4. Organize and plan aeromedical evacuation missions.
  5. Serves as a liaison between the medical team and flight crew/support staff.
  6. Monitor vital signs.
  7. Medical escort: A flight nurse can also provide medical escort services for non-emergency situations. The nurse must have experience in critical care and emergency medicine. Good knowledge of aviation medicine, occupational health, and travel medicine are also required.

BECOMING A FLIGHT NURSE

A Flight nurse must have a license to practice as a registered nurse. They must also have passed through 2-3 years of experience in a mobile intensive care unit or emergency setting. Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Life Support certificates will give individuals with the desire of becoming a flight nurse an added advantage. Flight nurses can take certification courses with the aim of becoming a Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN), or Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN). 

Additionally, flight nurses must possess the following traits and attributes:

  1. Flight nurses must show physical fitness levels that match the demands of the job.
  2. They must be capable of working at different shift hours, especially 24/7 call rotation and overtime. 
  3. A flight nurse must possess a strong leadership aptitude and communication ability such that he/she can work with different people under tense situations.
  4. They must have a sound knowledge of critical care, particularly concerning ventilation and circulation.
  5. Work independently in the absence of the flight physician.
  6. They must have received the appropriate training in mechanical ventilation, hemodynamic support, vasoactive medications, and intensive care skills.
  7. They must be able to carry out advanced medical procedures such as intubation, ventilator management, chest tube insertion, intra-osseous line placement, central line placement, intra-aortic balloon pump management, management of pacing devices, titration of vasoactive medications, pain management, administration of anesthetic medications in the absence of a physician.

With respect to air medical transportation, a flight nurse is an integral part of the team responsible for the patient’s medical care during air travel. The roles of flight nurses should never be underestimated as they are vital during emergencies and long-hour flights where there is a potential for medical complications and a need for round-the-clock medical care and supervision.