Becoming a flight nurse in Canada can be an exciting and rewarding career path for those who have a passion for nursing and a desire to help others in critical and emergency situations. In fact, many stories may be read online regarding nurses finding their calling and passion in being a flight nurse.
In this article, we will explore the role of flight nurses, their duties and responsibilities, common employers, the safety risks involved, the salary one can expect in Canada, and the steps required to pursue this specialized field of nursing.
A flight nurse is a highly skilled registered nurse who provides medical care to patients during air transportation, typically on helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft. These nurses are responsible for stabilizing patients, administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and providing emergency care during transport. They often work in collaboration with an interdisciplinary healthcare team, made up of different medical professionals like flight physicians and paramedics, to ensure the safety and well-being of patients throughout the flight.
Flight nurses must possess excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as they often encounter complex medical situations while in the air. They must be able to quickly assess patients' conditions, make appropriate decisions regarding treatment, and effectively communicate with the flight crew and other medical team members involved in the transport.
The duties and responsibilities of a flight transport nurse are diverse and demanding. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
Flight Nurses can find employment opportunities in various settings in Canada. Some of the common employers in this field include:
Many hospitals in Canada have their own air ambulance services and employ flight nurses to provide critical care during air transport. These nurses work closely with hospital staff to ensure a smooth transition from the hospital to the aircraft and back.
Private medical transport companies often provide air ambulance services, transporting patients between medical facilities or from remote areas to specialized hospitals. Flight nurses employed by these companies are responsible for providing medical care during transport and ensuring the safety and well-being of the patients.
Flight nurses may also find employment opportunities with government agencies involved in search and rescue operations. These nurses provide medical care to injured or ill individuals in remote locations and assist in their safe transport to medical facilities.
The Canadian military also employs flight nurses to provide medical care during air transport for military personnel who require critical care or emergency evacuation. These nurses work in close collaboration with other military healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible care for their patients.
Working as a flight nurse does come with certain safety risks due to the nature of the job. Flight Nurses often operate in high-stress and unpredictable work environments, dealing with medical emergencies and extreme conditions of the weather. However, it is important to note that the safety of flight nurses is taken very seriously by employers, and extensive safety protocols and training are in place to mitigate risks and to provide a safe environment to flight nurses as much as possible.
Flight Nurses undergo rigorous training in aviation safety, emergency procedures, and the use of specialized medical equipment. They are equipped with personal protective equipment and are trained to assess risks and make informed decisions regarding patient transport. Additionally, the aircraft used for medical transport are equipped with advanced safety features and are maintained to the highest standards.
While there are inherent risks associated with being a Flight Nurse, these risks are carefully managed, and the safety of both patients and healthcare professionals is of utmost importance.
In a survey conducted by the Economic Research Institute on employers and anonymous employees in Canada, they found out that flight nurses in Canada earn an average annual salary of $91,507, which equates to approximately $44 per hour. However, this may still vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and employer.
Moreover, in general, flight nurses often receive additional compensation due to the specialized nature of their work. Flight nurses may receive benefits such as shift differentials, overtime pay, and bonuses for working in remote or high-risk areas. It's also worth noting that as flight nurses gain experience and expertise in the field, their earning potential may increase.
Becoming a flight nurse in Canada requires a combination of education, license, experience, and specialized certification. The following steps outline the typical path to becoming a flight nurse:
Earning a nursing degree is important to becoming a flight nurse because it provides the necessary educational foundation and clinical training in the field of nursing.
Flight nurses need to have a solid understanding of medical procedures, patient assessment, and emergency care. They must be skilled in administering medications, operating medical equipment, and providing critical care in high-stress situations.
Nursing degree programs, such as an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), cover essential topics like anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and patient care. These programs also include clinical rotations in various healthcare settings, which help students gain hands-on experience and develop their nursing skills.
While not really required, obtaining a Master's Degree in Nursing (MSN) can enhance your chances of becoming a flight nurse. An MSN degree can provide advanced training in areas such as leadership, research, and specialized clinical practice, which can be beneficial for those seeking to take on higher-level roles within the aviation healthcare industry. Having a master's degree can also open up opportunities for career advancement and increased earning potential.
The NCLEX-RN stands for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. It's an important exam that aspiring flight nurses must pass in order to become registered nurses (RNs). The exam ensures that nurses possess the necessary knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective care to patients.
Becoming an RN is a prerequisite to becoming a flight nurse, as it provides the educational foundation and clinical training needed for the specialized field of aviation nursing. On the other hand, passing the NCLEX-RN is a requirement to obtain RN licensure, which is essential for practicing nursing in Canada.
Once you have passed the NCLEX-RN, you must apply for licensure in the province in which you wish to practice as a flight nurse. Each province has its own licensing requirements, so it is important to research and fulfill these requirements.
Note that the nursing categories in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia are each governed by a single regulatory body, while other provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba have separate regulatory bodies for each category (i.e., licensed practical nurses or LPNs have different regulatory bodies compared to registered nurses and nurse practitioners).
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Flight nurses are also expected to have other certifications and credentials relevant to performing the duties and responsibilities within their job description. Here are some of them:
For flight nurses, BLS training is crucial as it equips them with the necessary skills to manage critical medical situations during air transportation. Flight nurses may encounter emergencies such as cardiac arrest or airway obstructions, and BLS training ensures they can provide immediate and effective care.
Flight nurses often encounter patients with complex medical conditions, and ACLS training enables them to provide advanced cardiac care, including airway management, IV insertion, emergency treatments and interventions, and the use of advanced medical technology. ACLS certification demonstrates competence and ensures that flight nurses can deliver the highest level of care to their patients.
As a flight nurse, having PALS certification is crucial because it ensures that you are prepared to handle critical situations that may arise during the air transportation of pediatric patients. The course focuses on systematic assessment, treatment algorithms, resuscitation techniques, and team dynamics, all of which are essential in providing high-quality care to seriously ill or injured children.
The Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC) is a two-day educational program that focuses on the care of trauma patients during initial resuscitation. TPATC covers essential topics related to trauma care and includes a rigorous exam to test the knowledge and competency of the participants. This course is important for flight nurses as it enhances their ability to provide high-quality care to trauma patients during air transportation, ensuring their safety and well-being.
Most employers prefer flight nurses with experience in critical care, emergency medicine, or other high-acuity areas. It's beneficial to gain experience in these fields before pursuing a career as a flight nurse. This can be done through working in hospitals, emergency departments (ER/ED), or intensive care units (ICU), where you can hone strong triage skills and develop effective patient care plans even with little time allotted.
While not mandatory, obtaining a Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) certification can demonstrate your expertise and dedication to flight nursing. This certification is offered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN), applicable to nurses with valid licenses in the United States, a US Territory, Canada or Australia, and requires sitting for an exam.
Becoming a flight nurse in Canada is a challenging yet highly rewarding career choice for nurses who thrive in high-pressure environments and have a passion for providing critical care. The role of a flight nurse is vital in ensuring the safe transport of patients in need of emergency medical care.
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