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How to Become a Paramedic Nurse: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to start a career in paramedic nursing. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you'll need to become a flight nurse.

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Do I Want to Be a Paramedic Nurse?

Also known as flight nurses, these professionals provide emergency care for patients while en-route to a hospital via an airplane or helicopter. Nurses are sometimes required to lift or move patients, and precautions must be taken when dealing with potentially contagious diseases.

Job Requirements

Typical requirements for flight nurses include both registered nurse (RN) and paramedic licensure, which can usually be earned after completing a series of undergraduate training programs. Certifications from professional organizations also might be required. The following table describes these and other requirements for becoming a flight nurse:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Associate or bachelor's degree in nursing and minimum of paramedic certificate *
Licensure and Certification Flight nurses generally hold RN and paramedic licenses from their state of residence**; Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) credentials are among common employer requirements**
Experience Roughly 3-5 years of emergency and/or critical care nursing experience**
Key Skills Strong interpersonal, problem-solving and communication skills*; the ability to work in tight spaces and in adverse weather conditions**
Additional Requirements Ability to lift over 50 pounds and meet weight and fitness requirements**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job postings by employers (September 2012)

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Associate or Bachelor's Degree

Nursing programs often include training in pharmacology and patient care techniques for adults, children and expectant mothers. Supervised clinical rotations are also required. Successful completion of an associate's or bachelor's program allows individuals to sit for RN licensure examinations. They can also gain admission to RN-to-paramedic bridge programs.

Success Tip:

  • Obtain advanced life support certifications. Prospective flight nurses will need to acquire certification from the American Heart Association in such areas as Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) before being admitted to an RN-to-paramedic bridge program. These credentials are also required by many employers. Consider sitting for these certification exams while still enrolled in an RN training program.

Step 2: Become Licensed as a Registered Nurse

Aspiring flight nurses will need to apply for an RN license from their state board of nursing. This entails earning a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Some states also require applicants to submit to background checks or fulfill other requirements.

Success Tip:

  • Meet continuing education requirements. States often require RNs to renew their license every two years. Typical stipulations include 20-30 hours of approved continuing education. Applicants also might need to demonstrate proof at least 400-500 hours of work experience during this period.

Step 3: Get Work Experience

RN-to-paramedic bridge programs often require applicants to have anywhere from six months to two years of work experience in emergency nursing; employers could require even more. Positions in a hospital emergency department or critical care unit can help fulfill these prerequisites.

Success Tip:

  • Earn credentials from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. In addition to preparing RNs for bridge programs, work experience can qualify them to sit for Certified Emergency Nurse examinations. This credential might be required for flight nurse positions.

Step 4: Obtain Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Basic Certification

EMT-Basic certification is another common prerequisite for RN-to-paramedic bridge programs and can generally be obtained after attending a community, technical or vocational college course that covers topics in basic life support, airway management and ambulance operations. Some schools even allow experienced emergency care nurses to complete an accelerated course of study. After course completion, aspiring flight nurses will need to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians' (NREMT) EMT-Basic certification exam.

Step 5: Complete an RN-to-Paramedic Bridge Program

Students in RN-to-paramedic bridge programs participate in classroom instruction and clinical experiences. Field internships are another common program requirement. Topics of study build on those found in an EMT-Basic course and include pre-hospital patient assessment, advanced airway management and trauma care.

Step 6: Earn a Paramedic License

Although some states administer their own licensing exams, many grant licenses to applicants who've earned paramedic certification from NREMT. This entails passing written and practical examinations covering such topics as cardiac management, medication and patient assessment skills.

Success Tip

  • Maintain certification. Paramedic certification from NREMT must be renewed every two years. Re-certification requires the paramedic to have been actively working in an emergency response capacity and to have completed 72 hours of approved continuing education. Applicants can also renew their credentials after passing an approved examination.
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