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Advantages of a Career in Transport and Flight Nursing

Patty has advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology, with 35 years of work in allergy and other autoimmune treatment.

US Air Force Maj. Deveril Wint, operations flight commander of the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron was the Commemorative Air Force Dolly Vinsant Flight Nurse of the Year for 2013.

US Air Force Maj. Deveril Wint, operations flight commander of the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron was the Commemorative Air Force Dolly Vinsant Flight Nurse of the Year for 2013.

Nursinng Shortages in All Fields

America and other nations began experiencing a notable shortage of trained nurses in the 1990s, according to the U.S. government's Healthy People 2000 project that compiled data from 1990 through 1999 about a number of health-related questions.

The nursing shortage became more serious in the 21st century, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2023. Adding to the situation of aging Baby Boomer nurses suffering job burnout, retiring, and dying, the pandemic led to more extensive job burnout, more early retirements, and even deaths among nurses because of COVID infection, along with long-COVID symptoms and disability absences.

All types of nurses are needed in higher numbers today, likely until the year 2100 because of the consistent increase of annual worker retirements during the 2010s and 2020s, and the decline in population numbers of Generation X, Y, and Z compared with that of the Baby Boomers, according to the U.S. Census. Generation X is already retiring.

US Air Force (USAF) Captain (CAPT) Keith Reed, right, a Flight Nurse with the 185th Airlift Squadron, 137th Airlift Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard directs other flight nurses and personnel.

US Air Force (USAF) Captain (CAPT) Keith Reed, right, a Flight Nurse with the 185th Airlift Squadron, 137th Airlift Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard directs other flight nurses and personnel.

Flight, Transport, and Travel Nursing Rise in Popularity

One type of nursing career that can easily attract more workers is that of the transport and flight nurse as well as the travel nurse.

The media has drawn attention to flight nurses, doctors, and various therapists in such television series as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, set in Australia. Thus, these types of jobs are becoming more popular among job seekers.

A USAF flight nurse at work.

A USAF flight nurse at work.

Changes in Transport and Flight Nursing

Transport nursing began as "flight nursing," and the larger employment sector is said to be "air and surface transport nursing."

This work includes critical care, emergency services, and disaster response medical services. Workers include not only registered nurses (RNs), but also EMTs and paramedics. This field of medical work began to gain notice in the 1990s with the increase in senior citizens in an aging populace, Middle Eastern wars, and natural disasters like Hurricane Kattrina.

The workplace can include hospital ships, emergency squad vehicles and ambulances, government winged and helio-aircraft (particularly in wartime), commercial airliners, charter planes, hospital helicopters, prison vehicles, and others.

"Life Flight" services include quick helicopter delivery of patients and/or transplant organs to surgical arenas in a fashion timely enough to prevent death. On the other end of the transport spectrum, nurses may aid in delivering patients from one department in a medical center to another department.

2021 Distinguished Flight Nurse

The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing in America awarded Flight Nurse Kevin A. Kissner with the BCEN’s 2021 Distinguished CFRN Award

The Pay Rate

In October 2022, Salary.com listed the average hourly wage of U.S. transport nurses in the range of $39 to $49 an hour, not counting additional perks, benefits that may be offered, hotel stays, and transportation expenses covered by the client and the client's family.

During early November 2022, the job site Indeed listed over 2,600 transport nurse vacancies in America, all at a pay rate of over $65,000 per year.

ZipRecruiter.com listed over 137,000 such jobs within 5,000 miles of Chicago, including Canada and the UK. The majority of these jobs were listed in the United States. LinkedIn.com listed over 550,000 such jobs in the United States, also in November 2022.

Cities Hiring the Most Transport/Fight Nurses

  1. Greater Los Angeles CA
  2. NYC New York
  3. San Antonio TX
  4. Houston TX
  5. Austin TX
  6. Baltimore MD
  7. Asheville NC
  8. Little Rock AR
  9. Bowling Green KY
  10. Hendersonville NC

We estimate that the emergency/trauma/transport nursing workforce (in America) includes 167,375 providers of direct patient care (i.e., Staff Nurse or Advance Practice Nurse).

— Emergency/Trauma/Transport Nursing Workforce Study, 2019

US Navy Hospital Ship SS HOPE in 1964.

US Navy Hospital Ship SS HOPE in 1964.

Transport Crew for Medical Escort and Evacuation

Some recruitment companies specialize in nurses that work in both domestic and international patient transport capacities around the clock. The medical escort nurses often work on commercial airliners or cruise ships, accompanying patients in their journeys.

Like travel nurses, the escort nurses earn a higher daily rate of pay than do most nurses that work in hospitals and clinics. They also have the opportunity of traveling to interesting locations at the customer's expense. Both of these are advantages over ground nursing.

Nurses on SS Relief in 1898; US Army Hospital Ships Used Transport Nurses Early On

Nurses on SS Relief in 1898; US Army Hospital Ships Used Transport Nurses Early On

Medical escort nurses help patients that have difficulty moving or experience orthopedic conditions. They may also need to care for those with behavioral disorders and neurological conditions. They may help with oxygen and respiratory machinery.

Some patients must be lifted from mobility devices in and out of vehicles. IV saline and medications will be administered in some cases throughout the journey. These RNs must be experienced and well prepared, which helps their careers in an intense way to become more successful.

During WWII, AAF School of Air Evacuation at Bowman Field, Ky., student flight nurses learned how to handle patients.

During WWII, AAF School of Air Evacuation at Bowman Field, Ky., student flight nurses learned how to handle patients.

Medical Evacuation at LSU in Baton Rouge, LA in 2008.

Medical Evacuation at LSU in Baton Rouge, LA in 2008.

Job Requirements

Generally, in order to work in the field of transport nursing in the air or on the surface (land and sea), nurses must have an active RN's license, proof of advanced recent training in life support, and substantial work experience in emergency and critical care services.

These nurses particularly must function effectively as part of a medical team, or risk losing the patients' lives. This is a team that must often:

  1. Transport hurt/sick individuals from remote areas (disasters, war fields, ski slopes, mountains) to medical centers,
  2. Evacuate injured people from disasters,
  3. Provide effective medical support one or more patients that must have continuous care, and
  4. Provide care to adults, children, and infants.

Increasingly, these nurses attain the BSN degree, and some advance the master’s degree in flight nursing. The latter diploma combines the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner course with an intense focus on emergency skills and disaster settings. Bioterrorism injuries are a priority for treatment as well.

With all of these skills, training, certification, and experiences, transport nurses are extremely valuable workers.

Employment and Training

The dean of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, declares flight nursing and transport nursing to be a rapidly growing field of endeavor. In 2002, her school began the first degreed flight nurses' training program in America.

Because of specialization in practice and the reorganization of healthcare America, we have a smaller number of medical centers that can provide emergency, trauma, and critical care services. Therefore, additional staff must transport patients to centers that can and do.

Read more about Dean May Wykle and her nursing programs at The Sky's the Limit.

Space Shuttle Medical Support Team transport Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Johnny Stewart to treatment area.

Space Shuttle Medical Support Team transport Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Johnny Stewart to treatment area.

Sources

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS

Comments & Opinions

thecnatraining from Vancouver on January 30, 2012:

wow, i did not know that transport nurses can make up to $70k+! also i live in BC Canada now and that canadian list is mostly BC lol. Anyways great hub!

Aisla from Norway on January 25, 2011:

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Devid on September 14, 2010:

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Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 04, 2009:

@Hello, hello - I knew little about it myself until I looked around a bit. Finding the college in Ohio was great. With all the wars we're having and with the aging populaiton, I think we really need a lot more pros in this field.

@Cosmo Freebird - It's a more lucrative option that I'd known in the past. Glad the question was asked.

Cosmo Freebird on December 04, 2009:

Love the hub. It shows yet another option open through a career in nursing.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 04, 2009:

Thank you for a complete different subject I never even thought about it, leave alone knew anything about it. Very, very interesting.