Before delving any more deeply into the nuances of the flight nursing profession, I think it would be wise to discuss the basics of what a flight nurse is. In my mind, describing the flight nurse role should be broken down into three parts, and thus three posts:
Part I: General Job Description—official definition and my definition
Part II: The Cool Factor—where the rubber meets the road
Part III: Personality—the most important component
Part I: General Job Description
As with any job, someone, somewhere has been tasked with writing an “official” job description. As I prescribe to the mantra, “Brilliant people copy, geniuses steal,” when possible, the following comes from my actual job description:
Registered Nurse, Flight
“The Registered Nurse, in accordance with [ORGANIZATION blah blah blah,] collaborates with other members of the health care team and uses clinical judgment skills to diagnose and treat the patient responses to actual or potential health conditions. The RN assesses, monitors, detects, plans and takes appropriate action to prevent potential physiological complications associated with specific health problems and / or medical treatment.”
As you can see, this description could cover any RN position in existence. The interesting bits and bobs are actually in our addendum with one specific sentence being important:
“Able to function effectively in and out of hospital environment with limited supportive equipment and personnel.”
I will not beat a dead horse by rewriting what is easily written. Other general flight nursing job descriptions can be found at the following links:
Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association FAQ
Nursing Spectrum, Students’ Corner: Flight Nursing
Have You ever Thought About Becoming a Flight Nurse?
NursingLink: Flight Nurse
What is My Definition of a Flight Nurse?
“A Registered Nurse, licensed and certified to their eyeballs, who is confident but not arrogant, assertive, but not an ass, experienced but able to learn new tricks. The RN has to have awesome assessment skills, be in tune with their own intuition, able to be productive in the face of extreme chaos, be a politician and tactful when necessary or just plain mean when needed. They must be self motivated, and detail oriented to the point of being anal retentive. The RN has to be a team player. A dark, sick and somewhat twisted sense of humor is preferred. They must also be courageous but maintain balance in their risk taking behavior. Above all, the nurse must keep the safety of themselves, their fellow crew members, and the patient their primary focus. They should also look cool in a flight suit.”
Although there is quite a bit of humor (duh) in the above paragraph, there is also a lot of truth to it as well. Flight Nurses must be able to care for the patient, the patient’s loved ones, the ground crew/hospital staff, as well as his or her self.
The rest simply boils down to the desire to become a Flight Nurse, and the capability to love being on the edge.