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Flight Nurse Salary in 2021

Flight Nurse Salary in 2021

Whether it’s a serious crash or a life-saving transplant, flight nurses are critical members of the medical air transport team. Along with the pilot and the flight paramedic, they work in a highly dynamic environment to stabilize patients and make sure that they arrive ready for the critical care staff. They have to rely mostly on themselves to navigate the unexpected risks. Despite the challenges, the rewards make all worth it as your care is the essential link between life and death.

Compared to other nurses, flight nurses regularly receive good compensation packages, because it is a challenging profession with significant risk.  However, the salary differences can be more pronounced, but it all depends on what you know and how you apply it.

Salaries for civilian flight nurses compared to their military counterparts

For civilian flight nurses to work within a hospital or medical center setting, they need at least five years of critical care and trauma nursing experience, along with a degree to start. There are some opportunities to work with the government, and a good number of nurses work with private organizations. They mostly work within the United States, but with a private organization, there could be a chance for overseas deployment.

What it takes to be a military flight nurse

While all branches of the service have nursing staff in their ranks, the Air Force is the only branch that has a dedicated training school for flight nurses. From planning to deplaning, they ensure that injured personnel gets the highly trained prehospital care required. Unlike civilian flight nurses, Air Force candidates need just one year of critical care experience, a BSN, and a valid registered nurse license. Candidates must be between 18 and 47 years old and need to pass the medical, be accepted by the Surgeon General or the Chief Nurse, and then complete the five-and-a-half week training for commissioned officers.

With civilian transports, there is room for one patient, maybe two. A military medevac transports many more at one time and that’s why training critical care air transport teams (CCATT) takes place at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. Those two-week courses mix classroom learning with intense hands-on experience. When dealing with a challenging environment, such as turbulence, which can create patient discomfort or dislodge medical lines or even extreme temperature swings, it helps to have that level of preparedness.

Salaries for military flight nurses depend on education upon joining, certifications, and rank. On the lower end, they make about $31 to $32 per hour, which comes to between $64,000 and $67,000 annually. However, there are reports that U.S. Air Force flight nurses make an average of $80,000 per year. At Andrews Air Force Base, for example, that range swings from $86,000 to $109,000 per year, so there seems to be a higher earning potential.

Comparing civilian and military flight nurse salaries

Beginning salary for civilian flight nurses depends on location as well as certification and level of experience. They work seven 12- or 18-hour shifts per month, but there are times when that could be extended to 24 hours and receive benefits that include, social security, pension, and disability. Along with a possible sign-on bonus, their total compensation package worth well over $100,000 per year.

By contrast, an active-duty military flight nurse works rotating day and night 8- or 12-hour shifts. Their base pay is more competitive base pay and includes tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses. These include hazard duty pay, which has a per diem rate of $150, and imminent danger pay of about $225 per day. In addition to this, there are other tangible benefits:

  • Housing: Those who are new to the military can choose to live in the barracks, which is a way to adjust to the new life. Some may choose apartments or single-family homes within the base, with access to the commissary, which are on-base grocery stores, as well as other local amenities. To live off-base requires special permission. If nurses are approved, basic housing allowance which depends on rank and number of dependents kicks in and becomes a part of their pay. 
  • Travel: All military personnel get the chance to travel the world and serve in different military installations as part of their job. Nurses on holiday and their families may fly for free on military planes if space is available. This perk may be fun but should be used with caution as it is inherently unreliable. 
  • Vacation time: Civilian nurses have about 10 to 14 days of vacation time yearly, and military nurses have 30 paid days plus 10 additional days, including federal holidays.
  • Healthcare and life insurance: Medical and dental care are free of personnel, while family members pay a small fee. Danger is inherent for flight nurses and for those serving in the Nurse Corps, life insurance is available via a small monthly deduction just in case of a catastrophic event.

Apart from this, the Veteran’s Administration has additional benefits for veterans and their families and after retirement, many of these benefits are carried over and expanded. 

Factors that can impact a flight nurse’s salary

In some of the more popular states for flight nurses, earnings vary by locality resulting in a big swing in the upper and lower salary caps.

When you look at how flight nurses are paid by state, there are 12 states to keep in mind. Hawaii is one of 12 states that’s going to see a sharp need in transit nurses due to its aging population, Other U.S. states in the south and west will also see this need for other reasons including motor vehicle and other injuries, including Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. Here is a look at the annual salary expectations for these states:

  • California and Alaska salaries range from $86,000 to $110,000
  • Hawaii salaries range is between $81,000 and $102,000
  • Nevada salaries range is between $79,000 and $100,000
  • Virginia and Arizona salaries fall between $76,000 and $97,000
  • Texas  salaries range between $75,000 and $96,000
  • Georgia salaries fall between $74,000 and $94,000
  • Florida salaries range from $73,000 to $93,000
  • Idaho salaries fall between $72,000 and $92,000
  • New Mexico salaries fall between $71,000 and $90,000
  • Montana salary range falls between $70,000 and $89,000

One of the smartest moves flight nurses can do is negotiate their salaries. Not doing so leaves a lot of money on the table and you’ll never be sure that you got the salary you deserve. For flight nurses, getting the best out of the negotiation starts with the interview. That is when you demonstrate your expertise. 

Research the salary range you can expect based on your location, experience, and qualifications, and be prepared to discuss the reasons why you would be a valuable asset to the team. The best way to do this is to showcase how you were able to navigate some of the tougher scenarios of your career while keeping your ideal figure in mind.

There may be times when the base salary or benefits the employer offers won’t even satisfy your basic requirements. When you walk into that negotiation meeting, be prepared to walk away if the offer is not going to work for you. This is one of the trickiest parts of the process, because it requires the same kind of care and consideration you would give a patient. Practice your pitch, research the people you are going to be speaking with, and walk into that meeting fully prepared.

What factors other than location impact a flight nurse’s salary?

If you want to increase your earning potential, a BSN, Bachelor of Science in nursing along with your RN puts you in a better professional position. A BSN introduces leadership and a reality-based understanding of what it means to be a nursing professional. 

While it is not required, with an MSN you become a nurse practitioner, which puts you in a better position to work in a clinical environment domestically or overseas. In dire situations where a patient’s life is at risk, having that MSN gives you the confidence to take the necessary decisions.

There are many traditional nursing programs available. An associate’s degree takes about two years, while a traditional BSN takes a total of four years for full-time students. Depending on the specialization, an MSN can take up to five years and can be pursued full or part-time. However, there are bridge programs available to speed up the transition.

The thing about bridge programs is that they save time and money. Traditional degree programs may not necessarily fit your scheduling and tend to be more costly. Asynchronous learning is an attractive benefit, allowing nurses to get their coursework done at their own pace. Bridge programs are also fast-paced and focus on new material instead of dwelling on what you already know. This way, you feel as if you are moving forward.

These types of programs must be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) because some employers will require nurses to have degrees from accredited institutions.

Skills and qualities that can impact salary

In addition to education, the qualities and skills you possess have a significant impact on your salary. Combined with your certifications and experience, these characteristics will make you the ideal candidate for any flight nursing position. They include:

  • Complex problem-solving: Problem-solving is a once-in-a-while thing for other professions, but when it comes to nurses they utilize those skills throughout their days. They are masters at finding a workaround, making it second nature.
  • Increased awareness: The continuous practice of nursing involves the use of psychomotor skills to improve decision-making. Flight nurses can spot cues and recognize patterns that feed into their ability to situations.
  • Being comfortable with high-level autonomy: As the medical authority on a flight, you have to anchor into that knowledge base and do what needs to be done. Flight nurses must have the skills and desire to take charge of the situation and switch gears when those calls come.
  • Resourcefulness: This quality goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking, there may be times when what you need may not be readily available. In the most chaotic situations, your ability to stay calm and find what you need even if it’s not exactly the form you want is what sets you apart.
  • Physical fitness: Physical fitness is a must, because there’s a lot of lifting shifting, and potentially running in addition to other physical demands that go with the job. It’s also highly stressful and demands working long shifts or being on-call rotation for 24 hours so physical fitness definitely helps with handling all of these scenarios. This is partially why the weight limit for flight nurses is 250 pounds.

Because it is such a competitive profession, there are times when your skill-set will put you a cut above the competition and move you to the shortlist.

  • Sharp clinical judgment: The reason why the minimum requirement of 5 years in the intensive care emergency/trauma is because it sharpens your judgment. High-intensity situations demand a clear head and quit thinking, especially when it comes to measuring meds.
  • Be able to read results: Your ability to read an EKG and other equipment enables you to accurately communicate with the ground crew. Your ability to adapt and learn new equipment quickly improves your level of patient care.

Average salary for flight nurses

The average flight nurse’s salary is a little over $87,000 per year which works out to be about $42 per hour. Starting salaries professionals is between $68,000 and $69,000 annually. For states like California and Hawaii, nurses can expect an average salary of a little over $95,000 per year. In order to understand how these medical professionals can command such a competitive base pay rate, you need to understand what it is that they do during the course of a typical day.

Daily life of a flight RN

During the first half of 2020, traffic fatalities rose from 1.1 per 100 million miles to 1.35. These types of crashes make up a significant number of air medical support trips making service vital. As an experienced nursing professional, your job is to provide the right kind of support including respiratory support to patients during the Journey. You’re constantly on-call, which means that the minute the alarm sounds you have to go. In some cases, your shift is non-stop and that means you have to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready every time.

There are two types of calls nurses get, scene calls and interfacility transfers. Scene calls cover accident or crime scenes, while interfacility transfers are for medical, cardiac, and pediatric patient trauma cases. 

During times when you have a lull in cases, teams typically practice scenarios. Continued education is a requirement in this profession and one of the best ways to get better at being a flight nurse is to take a look at past cases and see how things could have been done differently or better. Teams practice adjusting the treatments or the protocols for different variations of the same case to ensure they are ready for any case. To do this more effectively, they may enlist the help of an outside consultant to be an objective trainer for the team.

Another vital step in readiness is the kits. Every day team members ensure that their kits have all the equipment they leave. What alcohol happens, the last thing they need is to be out of a particular piece of equipment while dealing with a critical case. I don’t particularly busy day, they may even check kids a few times to make sure that they’re ready for the next case. As a key member of such a high-performance team, flight nurses have to be focused on the task at the moment, and that constantly practicing and staying sharp he’s a part of the job.

Types of flights

There are two types of flights. Rotor-wing is a helicopter and fixed-wing is a plane. Each has its advantages. Rotor-wings are more common during emergencies because patients need to be transported as quickly as possible over a short distance. They can land anywhere, making them great for the more impractical ground transport situation, but can be subject to turbulence. If the weather is too bad, rotor-wing transports are too risky. additionally, they are tight on space, which is why the flight crew needs to be more economical and efficient. 

Fixed-wing crafts aren’t as flexible with their landing capabilities but they have a much longer flight range than helicopters.  Their spaciousness leaves room for more life-supporting equipment and because they fly at higher altitudes, turbulence and tough weather aren’t much of an issue.

Highest salary for flight nurses

As with any profession, the more experience you have, the higher the pay potential. In some cases, flight nurses with a nice mix of expertise and experience can command well over $100,000 per year. This can be more if they work as consultants, helping teams become more efficient, or even as nurse educators. In order for nurses to really excel at their jobs, they need to pursue the necessary certifications first.

Flight nurse certifications

Working as a flight nurse, you will encounter many different patients. It’s a good idea to solidify your expertise with certifications. Not all of these are required, but there are a few which are considered essential cornerstones to the flight nursing practice. 

  • Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) or the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN): CEN is for nurses who work in an emergency room or within a trauma center. The CCRN is for nurses who work in intensive care units, whether it’s respiratory, pediatric, or even within emergency departments. The decision to take either one depends on your specialization, but for flight nursing, critical care experience is a must, even if you don’t have the certification.
  • Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN): Once you have the designations that show that you have experience in critical care and trauma, the CFRN is the next step. The CFRN is similar in difficulty to the CCRN, and once you’ve gotten your CEN or CCRN, you can go ahead and go for this. 
  • Basic Life Support (BLS): The American Heart Association’s BLS course teaches professionals how to relieve someone who is choking and when to use the AED, automated external defibrillators, during sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS): PALS teaches medical professionals how to provide life-saving care to children and infants who are neither critically ill nor in the neonatal ICU. ACLS does the same thing that PALS does, except for adults. 
  • Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC): This certification is a comprehensive course that dives into the mechanics of transporting trauma patients. It’s so rigorous, that it covers numerous concepts including emergency, obstetrics, bariatric and critical care. The legalities of transport nursing as well as dealing with patients who are burned or in shock make TPATC a cornerstone certification for all flight nurses.
  • Prehospital Advanced Life Support (PHTLS): The PHTLS is a course for first responders, such as firefighters and rescue personnel, given by the National Association of EMTs. They teach about how to control hemorrhages, managing airways, and other vital skills. It’s renewable every four years.
  • Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS): The BTLS is a two-day program that covers a lot of the trauma scenarios, including mass casualty situations along with how to deal with spinal and head injuries. Students must first complete the basic first aid course before taking this one.
  • Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS): Developed by the trauma committee of the American College of Surgeons (ACS COT), ATLS teaches the assessment of a patient’s status and needs including resuscitation and stabilization techniques. It provides an easy-to-remember evaluation method when treating trauma cases
  • Neonatal  Resuscitation Program (NRP): The NRP is an obstetrics certification program that trains professionals on how to care for newborns at the time of delivery. 
  • Emergency medical technicians, EMTs, help to stabilize patients during transport and are partners to flight nurses. In some states, nurses, even though they are far more qualified, must have EMT certification. EMT-B technicians answer emergency calls and provide basic life support. EMT-P is a certified paramedic and is the highest designation. They provide more advanced care including inserting IV lines and administering drugs. Nurses can be certified as either. 

In addition to all of this, you’ll have the opportunity to get HAZMAT, OSHA, and FEMA trainings which can help you to stay prepared for the more serious situations.

What skills and qualifications can help flight nurses get higher salaries?

In addition to education, the qualities and skills you possess have a significant impact on your salary. Combined with your certifications and experience, these characteristics will you the ideal candidate for any flight nursing position. they include:

  • Complex problem solving: Problem-solving is a once-in-a-while thing for the professions but when it comes to nurses they utilize those skills throughout their day. They are masters at finding a workaround, making it second nature.
  • Increased awareness: The Continuous practice of nursing involves the use of psychomotor skills to improve decision-making. Flight nurses can spot cues and recognize patterns that feed into their ability to situations.
  • Being comfortable with high-level autonomy: As the medical authority on a flight, you have to Anchor into that knowledge base and do what needs to be done. Flight nurses must have the skills and desire to take charge of the situation and switch gears when it calls me.
  • Resourcefulness: This quality goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking, there may be times when what you need may not be readily available. In the most chaotic situations, your ability to stay calm and find what you need even if it’s not exactly the form you want is what sets you apart.
  • Physical fitness: Physical fitness is a must because there’s a lot of lifting shifting and potentially running in addition to other physical demands that go with a job. It’s also highly stressful and demands working long shifts or being on-call rotation for 24 hours so physical fitness definitely helps with handling all of these scenarios. This is partially why the weight limit for flight nurses is 250 pounds.

Because it is such a competitive profession, there are times when your skillset will put you a cut above the competition and move you to the shortlist.

  • Sharp clinical judgment: The reason why the minimum requirement of 5 years in the intensive care emergency/trauma is because it sharpens your judgment. High-intensity situations demand a clear head and quit thinking, especially when it comes to measuring meds.
  • Be able to read results: Your ability to read an EKG and other equipment enables you to accurately communicate with the ground crew. Your ability to adapt and learn new equipment quickly improves your level of patient care.
Degree Finder
RNtoBSNProgram.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Nursing Articles

Degree Finder
RNtoBSNProgram.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.