We feel that flight nursing gets a bad rap on the job market. Nurses think the work is dangerous and underpaying. We wanted to help destroy these myths by reaching out to a flight nurse to see if these things are true.
Meet Josh from New Jersey.
Josh has eight years experience as a flight nurse. He will let you know if these things about flight nursing are true.
On we go.
Who are you? Where are you from? What is your history? Where do you work?
My name is Josh. I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. I grew up in a really small town in Central New Jersey. I enrolled to Rutgers University and decided to study nursing after my freshman year. I moved back home after I graduated and got a job at a nearby hospital in the neonatal intensive care unit.
I worked in the ICU for three years while I was trying to figure out my career path. I considered being a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthesia, travel nurse, and a bunch of other nursing careers. I decided to go with critical care flight nursing because the hospital offered me a high paying job. It was in New York City.
The work was stressful and hectic. Sometimes emotionally draining. However, there were a lot of rewarding moments though. Families of the injured were always grateful for our help. I learned so much about proper and emergency patient care as well. I was a great experience.
Now I work for a private company as a flight nurse. I no longer do o critical care though. My company transports chronically ill patients from homes to healthcare facilities and vice versa.
Myth: Flight Nurses Always Work Under Dangerous Conditions
This is not true. I used to work as a critical care flight nurse and I could count on one hand the amount of times where I thought I was walking into a life threatening situation. It rarely happens. However, some places and assignments are worse than others and you have to be prepared.
Of those dangerous missions I went on, had my team and I not known and practiced procedure; things probably could have ended a lot worse. Like I said, it is very rare for you to be thrown into a life-threatening situation but you should be adequately prepared if you are. Keep up to date with your training and you should be okay.
Myth: Flight Nurses Only Work Emergencies
Nope. I work for a private company now and the assignments I go on are private transports for chronically sick patients. Therefore, I never get called on emergencies anymore. I make sure the patient is stabilized and receives adequate care until he or she gets to the clinic or hospital. None of those situations are emergencies by any means.
When I was a critical care flight nurse, I had a lot more emergency calls. So if you are a critical care flight nurse expect to have most your calls be emergencies. Remember though, there are different types of flight nurses. There are military flight nurses, critical care flight nurses, private flight nurses, etc. They do not all respond to emergencies. That would be ridiculous.
Myth: The Shifts Are Similar In Length To Registered Nurses
This is not true. Unfortunately, my shifts are a lot longer. It has always been that way for me as a flight nurse actually. When I was a registered nurse my shifts were always between 10 and 14 hours. Give or take. I would have 12 to 15 shifts a month depending on how much overtime I wanted. That was not that bad. I got used to it.
Now my shifts are 24 to 28 hours long. Those are long shifts. I have work through the day and night on the same shift. Not only that, I have to be fully functioning for every second I am on the clock. No dosing off. That can be rough sometimes. However, I sleep a lot the day before my shift and drink a lot of caffeine during shift.
I usually work 6 to 8 shifts a month. That might not seem bad but it is brutal at first. I also get paid way more per hour than I did as a regular staff nurse in the intensive care unit. I usually push for 8 shifts a month. Sometimes I only get 6 though. But I am not complaining. The average person works 160 hours per month. With 6 shifts I get to about 144 hours per month.
The hourly pay makes up for whatever I might miss out on in hours anyway. I make just under $52 an hour. When I started as a critical care flight nurse about 8 years ago, I was still making $40 per hour. That was the way flight nursing was designed to be. It draws more nurses to the profession by paying out higher wages.
Myth: Critical Care Flight Nurses Do Not Get Paid Well
This is absolutely false. I made over $125,000 last year and I am only 33 years old. I also work one shift a week or so at my local hospital. That is extra cash in my pocket. I do not think I am doing too badly. I know flight nurses that make much more than me. That is usually because they have a lot of experience though. They are 10 or more years into their career.
Do not worry about the pay. You will get compensated pretty well. Especially, if you work for a private company. Think about the work and if it is something you really want to do. If you are thinking about flight nursing, you will most likely have to pay your dues in critical care first. I worked as a critical care flight nurse for about 3 years.
The good thing about flight nursing is you have a lot of career options if you want to switch to a different area of nursing. This is because everyone respects critical care flight nurses. The job is hard. That is why most nurses do not do it. You will have an easier time applying to jobs and getting into graduate school.
Myth: Flight Nurses And Paramedics Only Work On Helicopters
I did most of my work on a helicopter when I was in critical care flight nursing. Now that I take care of chronically sick patients, I mostly work on private aircrafts. I have worked on private jets and airplanes. Both of which are pretty cool.
Flight nurses definitely work on more aircrafts than just helicopters. Or else we just be called “helicopter nurses”. That sounds a lot less appealing if you ask me. Working on a helicopter is fun though.
Myth: Flight Nurses Only Work For Hospitals
This is false as well. I work for a private company now. I used to work for a hospital when I was a critical care flight nurse and when I worked as a staff nurse in the neonatal ICU. I have not worked for a hospital since.
Flight nurses can work for hospitals, clinics, private employers, the military, and the government. All of those employers pay pretty well. I think the military has the most personal benefits but you have to actually join the military. I did not want to do that so I chose against it. You do have different employment options though. You are not just limited to healthcare facilities and hospitals.
There you have it. Hopefully now you have a better idea of what it is like to be a flight nurse. You have a realistic view into job. More importantly, a lot of these silly myths have been debunked by Josh. Now that you are more informed you can actually consider flight nursing as a career option instead of believing these silly myths.