What is a Flight Nurse Practitioner? (Duties, Steps to Become, & Salary)


Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C

Do you thrive in high-stress situations and enjoy never knowing what your day will bring? Are you able to remain calm, think quickly, and act quickly under pressure? Do you care for critically ill or injured people in a non-traditional
environment?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, becoming a flight nurse practitioner might be the perfect fit for you! And there is a demand for flight NPs as an average of 550,000 patients a year use an air ambulance service for transportation. So, what is a flight nurse practitioner? Read on to learn more about the role of a flight nurse practitioner, including what they do, steps to become one, and salary information.



What Does a Flight Nurse Practitioner Do? – 6 Main Duties and Responsibilities


As a flight nurse practitioner, you will have many responsibilities when on the job. Below are six of the main duties and responsibilities of a flight NP.

1. Perform thorough physical assessments frequently.

As a flight nurse practitioner, you will often assess your patients. This may include a full head-to-toe or be more focused based on the patient’s condition. Obtaining and interpreting vital signs as part of the physical assessment is also crucial, as it helps dictate the patient’s response to any implemented treatment plan.

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2. Administer medications.

As a flight NP, you will administer appropriate medications based on your frequent assessments, including interpretation of vital signs. This can include intravenous medications to improve blood pressure, antiarrhythmics, or blood products. You also need to know the appropriate medications to give during cardiac arrest.

3. Ensure/Protect the airway.

As a flight NP, one of your most significant roles is to protect the patient’s airway. This includes maintaining the airway through intubation and ventilation if indicated.

4. Communicate with healthcare providers on the ground.

Just because you are in the air providing care to your patient does not mean you do not have constant contact with healthcare providers on the ground. You will collaborate with physicians and other providers to ensure the implementation of appropriate treatment plans and protocols.

5. Perform medical procedures if indicated.

To become a flight NP, you must have extensive knowledge and experience in various medical procedures. These can include simply inserting an IV, applying a splint to a broken bone, such as a femur, or intubating a patient who has a compromised airway. It is critical you stay up to date with proper techniques for any medical procedure you may need to know during a crisis.

6. Medical Equipment Checks.

While this duty is not as exciting for a flight NP as some of the others, it may be one of the most important. When the flight NP is not in flight or transporting a patient, you will perform equipment checks on your airplane or helicopter to ensure all equipment you may need is available, works, and has not expired. This includes medications, oxygen supplies, IV supplies, splints, bandages, etc.



Where Do Flight Nurse Practitioners Mostly Work? – Top 3 Work Settings


1. Emergency Departments:

You may work as a flight nurse practitioner for a hospital. When not helping with the transport of a critically ill or injured patient, you may be helping in the ER or ICU. This does not always happen based on the privileges that the NP has at that specific hospital, but if it is allowed, you may assist with codes, management of airways, or other tasks.

I have worked in hospitals where flight teams were stationed, and they frequently helped out in the ER when it was busy, or assistance was needed to run codes or perform specific medical procedures.

2. Private Medical Transport Companies:

As a flight NP, you may work for private medical transport companies, such as LifeFlight, in my region. These companies only transport critically ill or injured people and aren’t affiliated with only one hospital system.

3. Pediatric Hospitals:

One other common setting in which you may work as a flight nurse practitioner is a pediatric hospital. Often, large pediatric hospitals have transport teams that transport critically ill patients between facilities or fly to a hospital to pick up a critically ill or injured child to bring back to their hospital. This often includes working with pediatrics of all ages, including neonates, toddlers, and adolescents.



What is the Typical Work Schedule and Work Hours of a Flight NP?


Flight nurse practitioners typically work twelve-hour shifts—and the timings of these shifts may vary. For example, some flight NPs may work 7 am to 7 pm or 7 pm to 7 am. There are also instances where a flight NP works a 24-hour shift.

The flight NP will work weekdays, weekends, and holidays too.



What Education is Required to Become a Flight Nurse Practitioner After High School?


To become a flight nurse practitioner, you must first complete a BSN program after you graduate from high school--and it does not matter if it is an accelerated BSN program, RN-BSN program, or a traditional BSN program. Once you have your BSN, you must graduate from an accredited NP program--and I’d recommend specializing in adult-gerontology acute care or family practice with an emergency nurse practitioner certification, pediatric acute care, or neonatology.



How Long Does It Take to Become a Flight NP After High School?


Program TypeProgram Length
BSN36 to 48 Months
BSN-to-MSN (NP)12 to 24 Months
BSN-to-DNP (NP)36 to 48 Months



How Much Does It Cost to Become a Flight NP After High School?


Program TypeProgram Cost
BSN$8,730 - $219,450
BSN-to-MSN (NP)$20,740 - $201,980
BSN-to-DNP (NP)$28,390 - $277,320



What is the Step-By-Step Process of Becoming a Flight Nurse Practitioner After High School?


Below you will find a step-by-step process to become a Flight NP after high school.

STEP #1: Graduate from an accredited BSN program



STEP #2: Pass NCLEX and obtain RN state licensure:

Once you have graduated from an accredited BSN program, you must pass the NCLEX and obtain RN licensure in your home state.

STEP #3: Gain Experience:

You must have experience as an RN in a critical care environment before becoming a flight nurse practitioner. This can include experience in an emergency department or trauma intensive care unit. The best experience, though, would be a couple of years as a flight RN.

STEP #4: Apply to graduate school.

Once you have your RN experience, the next step to becoming a flight RN is to apply to NP school. The specialty you select is important, and I recommend an adult-gerontology NP, family medicine with an emergency NP certificate, pediatric acute care, or neonatology.

STEP #5: Graduate from your accredited NP program.



STEP #6: Pass the board certification exam specific to your NP specialty and obtain NP licensure in your state of residence.



STEP #7: Apply for flight NP jobs.

Now, depending on your RN experience or clinical experiences in NP school, you may not be able to apply for flight NP jobs right after graduation from your NP program. Instead, you may have to work in a critical care environment as an NP for 1-2 years before you can apply for flight NP jobs. So, I recommend looking into the requirements before graduation from NP school, so you know what to expect based on the state you live in.

STEP #8: Obtain the certified flight registered nurse certificate.

I recommend completing these certifications before applying to NP school if you have flight RN experience. If you do not have experience, complete it once you have a couple of years of experience as a flight NP.

STEP #9: Enjoy your career as a flight nurse practitioner!





What are the Required or Recommended Certifications for Flight Nurse Practitioners?


Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (A-G ACNP) Specialty in Flight and Critical Care Transport:

The A-G ACNP Specialty in Flight and Critical Care Transport certificate is a post-master’s program from Case Western Reserve University. It requires 5-9 credits to complete and will prepare the NP to care for patients requiring critical care transport.

Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN):

While the CFRN is a certificate for a registered nurse, not an NP, I recommend it for those RNs wanting to become flight NPs. Completing this certification demonstrates your passion and commitment to providing high-quality care to critically ill or injured patients requiring flight transportation.



Are There Any Fellowship or Residency Programs Available for Flight Nurse Practitioners?


There is no fellowship or residency program specific to flight nurse practitioners.



What is the Starting Salary of a New Grad Flight Nurse Practitioner?


The starting salary of a new graduate flight nurse practitioner is $41.81 an hour, $86,970 a year, $7,250 a month, or $1,673 a week.

Hourly$41.81
Weekly$1,673
Monthly$7,250
Annual$86,970



What is the Average Salary of a Flight Nurse Practitioner?


The average flight nurse practitioner salary is $124,150 a year, which is $59.69 an hour, $2,388 a week, or $10,350 a month.

Hourly$59.69
Weekly$2,388
Monthly$10,350
Annual$124,150
(Source: Nursingprocess.org)



What is the Salary by Level of Experience of a Flight NP?


Experience impacts the salary of a flight nurse practitioner. An entry-level flight nurse practitioner will make $86,970 a year, or a flight nurse practitioner with 5-9 years of experience makes $121,090 a year. A flight nurse practitioner with 20 years or more of experience will make approximately $164,540 a year.

Level of ExperienceHourlyWeeklyMonthlyAnnual
Entry-Level$41.81$1,673$7,250$86,970
1-4 Years of Experience$49.43$1,977$8,570$102,810
5-9 Years of Experience$58.22$2,329$10,090$121,090
10-19 Years of Experience$64.85$2,594$11,240$134,890
20 Years or More Experience$79.11$3,164$13,710$164,540



What is the Average Salary of a Flight NP by State?


Where a flight NP lives will impact their average salary. For example, a flight nurse practitioner in California has the highest annual salary of $157,460 compared to a flight nurse practitioner in Tennessee, with an average annual salary of $98,910.

Factors such as cost of living and scope of practice influence the flight NP salary for each state.

StateHourlyWeeklyMonthlyAnnual
Alabama$51.04$2,042$8,850$106,160
Alaska$55.72$2,229$9,660$115,900
Arizona$58.12$2,325$10,070$120,890
Arkansas$51.27$2,051$8,890$106,650
California$75.70$3,028$13,120$157,460
Colorado$55.75$2,230$9,660$115,950
Connecticut$62.95$2,518$10,910$130,930
Delaware$57.72$2,309$10,010$120,060
Florida$52.81$2,112$9,150$109,840
Georgia$55.26$2,211$9,580$114,950
Hawaii$61.42$2,457$10,650$127,760
Idaho$56.36$2,254$9,770$117,220
Illinois$58.55$2,342$10,150$121,790
Indiana$58.27$2,331$10,100$121,210
Iowa$61.37$2,455$10,640$127,640
Kansas$53.46$2,138$9,270$111,200
Kentucky$52.32$2,093$9,070$108,830
Louisiana$56.59$2,264$9,810$117,710
Maine$56.63$2,265$9,820$117,800
Maryland$57.28$2,291$9,930$119,140
Massachusetts$66.40$2,656$11,510$138,110
Michigan$54.47$2,179$9,440$113,300
Minnesota$61.36$2,454$10,640$127,620
Mississippi$56.13$2,245$9,730$116,760
Missouri$54.18$2,167$9,390$112,700
Montana$57.43$2,297$9,950$119,450
Nebraska$56.95$2,278$9,870$118,460
Nevada$65.22$2,609$11,300$135,650
New Hampshire$60.22$2,409$10,440$125,250
New Jersey$68.58$2,743$11,890$142,640
New Mexico$62.02$2,481$10,750$129,010
New York$67.73$2,709$11,740$140,870
North Carolina$54.79$2,192$9,500$113,960
North Dakota$54.55$2,182$9,460$113,460
Ohio$56.22$2,249$9,750$116,940
Oklahoma$58.28$2,331$10,100$121,220
Oregon$65.23$2,609$11,310$135,670
Pennsylvania$57.71$2,308$10,000$120,040
Rhode Island$59.96$2,398$10,390$124,720
South Carolina$52.25$2,090$9,060$108,670
South Dakota$55.35$2,214$9,590$115,120
Tennessee$47.55$1,902$8,240$98,910
Texas$59.68$2,387$10,340$124,130
Utah$55.35$2,214$9,590$115,120
Vermont$55.82$2,233$9,680$116,110
Virginia$56.00$2,240$9,710$116,480
Washington$64.91$2,596$11,250$135,010
West Virginia$51.13$2,045$8,860$106,340
Wisconsin$58.02$2,321$10,060$120,690
Wyoming$55.16$2,207$9,560$114,740



What is the Job Outlook Like for This Career?


The job outlook for flight nurse practitioners is excellent, with an expected rate of more than 44% between 2022 and 2032. This is significantly higher than the average for most jobs, indicating the high demand for flight NPs.

2022-32
+44.54%



Useful Organizations and Associations


1. Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA)




My Final Thoughts


As a flight nurse practitioner, your day is unpredictable. While it can be exciting and adrenaline-pumping at times, it can also be demanding, stressful, and exhausting. I can tell you that it takes a special NP with the right training and skills to become a flight nurse practitioner!

After reading the above, I hope you can answer the question, what is a flight nurse practitioner? I have discussed the role of the flight nurse practitioner, including what they do, the steps to become, and salary information.



Frequently Asked Questions Answered


1. On Average, How Much Does A Flight NP Make Per Hour?

The average salary of a Flight nurse practitioner per hour is $59.69.

$59.69


2. On Average, How Much Does A Flight NP Make Per Week?

The average salary of a Flight nurse practitioner per week is $2,388.

$2,388


3. On Average, How Much Does A Flight NP Make Per Month?

The average salary of a Flight nurse practitioner per month is $10,350.

$10,350


4. On Average, How Much Does A Flight NP Make Per Year?

The average salary of a Flight nurse practitioner per year is $124,150.

$124,150



List of Sources Used for This Article


1. https://www.americanactionforum.org/insight/addressing-the-high-costs-of-air-ambulance-services/
2. https://case.edu/nursing/sites/default/files/2018-05/ACNP-flight.pdf
3. https://bcen.org/cfrn/eligibility/


Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!