002: 5 Tips To Get You Started Towards Becoming a Flight Paramedic or Flight Nurse

TIPSfromCRIT Episode 2

5 Tips to Get You Started Towards Becoming A Flight Paramedic or Flight Nurse

I'm going to be honest here.  The road to becoming a Flight Paramedic or Nurse is challenging, but it's not as difficult as some may think.

That being said, there are some things you can do that will make a significant difference in your chances of landing that coveted position on the aircraft.

In this episode, I share 5 tips you need to know to give yourself the best chance of being successful in your quest to becoming a Flight or Critical Care Transport Provider.

Tips Shared in This Episode

  • Tip 1 - Make sure you're getting the right experience

  • Tip 2 - Don't stop learning

  • Tip 3 - Be a TEAM player

  • Tip 4 - Be Flexible

  • TIP 5 - Be The Right Person

  • Bonus TIP - Interview Often


Quick Tip #1: Make sure you're working in the right system.

Just about every flight paramedic job posting I've ever seen requires a minimum of 3-5 year experience in a "busy" 911 system with a high call volume.

Don't believe me?  Try searching "Flight Paramedic" on indeed.com to see hundreds of current posting for Flight Paramedics.

Now, the term "busy" is very subjective, and so too is the interpretation of "busy" by many flight programs, so I can't really say exactly how busy a system you need to be working in to meet satisfy this expectation from an employer, so a good rule of thumb to use is to think about the area where the flight program is located and look at EMS systems there.

What is considered a "busy" system there?  If the EMS system you're working for is on par with a "busy" busy system in the region where you hope to work then you're probably in good shape.

As for the 3-5 year requirement, most programs stick to this requirement pretty firmly if for no other reason then to narrow the pool of applicants.

Now, for you nurses.  Similarly most flight programs will require 3-5 years experience as well, but here's the kicker.  Most programs want you to have ICU experience.  Many will take ER experience, but all things being equal the nurse with ICU experience will get the job over a nurse with just ER experience every time.

The reason for this is most flight programs use a Medic/Nurse configuration.  This blended experience allows the team to deliver the highest level of care to patients across the entire spectrum of calls.

The nurse with extensive ICU experience is able to bring that knowledge and expertise to their patients during Hospital to Hospital transfers.

While a nurse with only ER experience may be perfectly capable of managing most patients coming out of a hospital, when it comes to moving the sickest of the sick patients from ICU to ICU it's unlikely they'll have the experience to provide the necessary level of care at the highest level possible.


Quick Tip #2: Don't stop learning.

We have a bad habit in EMS, and I pursum there's the same problem for nurses.  After graduating from school and starting our first job we study our ass off as we begin transition from student to provider.

Not only are we typically still excited about the job, but we're also trying to survive orientation and learn to specifics of the system we find ourselves working in as well as obtain new certifications that were not part of our original training.

Then, after a few years, we begin to feel comfortable with our new role.  We know what's expected of us from an operational perspective, and we feel pretty good about our ability to care for the type of patients we seen on a regular basis.

At this point what often happens is the learning process stops as we fall into a routine.

The problem with this is that when we stop being a seeker of knowledge we become complacent.

Our skills become dull and we begin to fall into the rut of "I do it this way because that's the way I've always done it."

Not only does this result in us providing less than optimal care to the patients we see regularly, but it also results in a more narrow scope of clinical knowledge.

Remember, when you fly you're responsible for moving patients regardless of their condition.  You need to be knowledgeable about all patient populations because on any day you could be caring for someone with High Altitude Cerebral Edema on one call and Acute Nitrogen Narcosis on the next.

The same goes for nurses.  Just because you come from a Trauma ICU doesn't mean you don't need to be knowledgeable about caring for patients with Hepatic Encephalopathy, Septic Shock, or DKA.

As a flight team member, you're expected to be the best of the best.  Try to gain as much knowledge as possible and never stop learning.


Quick Tip #3:  Be a TEAM Player

While it is essential that you be knowledgable about caring for critical patients, your ability to get along with the team in many instances is much more important.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard hiring managers, supervisors, and field trainers say something like, "I can teach someone to do the job.  I can't teach them how to get along with people."

If you someone who has a difficult time working with others, start working on that now, because unlike on the ambulance where it's often just you in the back with you're patient, now you'll be  working side by side with another caregiver on every call.

You need to be good at communicating, sharing ideas, working through differences of opinions, collaborating on treatment decisions, all while making sure you're being professional and providing the highest level of care under challenging conditions.


Quick Tip #4: Be Flexible

Be willing to relocate for a job, no matter where that job is.

Don't get hung up on working for a particular program if your ultimate goal is to become a Flight Paramedic or Flight Nurse.

By being willing to look outside your immediate geographic area you increase the number of job opportunities available to you.  Now, this may require moving or perhaps you could manage a commute.

For nearly 3 years I commuted over 300 mile one way (we worked 48 hour shifts) because working in this community was that important to me.

This won't be an option for everybody, but if it does, this alone can make a huge difference since once you have that "Golden Ticket" it becomes much easier to land the next interview and job.


Quick Tip #5: Be the right persons for the job

Be the person the company is looking for.

This is probably the most important tips I have for you today because if you're not the type of person the company is looking for, it won't matter how much experience you have or how good you are, you won't even get a call back.

But how can you find out if you're the type of person a program is looking for?

Be observant and ASK!

  • Talk to staff

  • Talk with hiring manager

  • Attend conferences put on by, or attended by flight programs

  • Request a flight program come provide training for your department

  • Pay particular attention to job postings

  • Talk during feedback calls

  • Ask to do a fly along.

If you know someone who works for a particular program that you'd like to fly with, ask them about the type of people their program likes to hire.  Ask if they've heard managers talk about the type of person they're looking for.

Perhaps they've had problems with someone showing up late so they're specifically looking for someone who lives close to the base.

Or maybe they're preparing to expand their guidelines and are looking for someone with specific experience with balloon pumps or Impella transports.

They could be looking for someone with High Risk OB transport experience because they're starting to see more OB transfers.

Discovering the type of person a program is looking for can be challenging, but the effort does pay off BIG TIME!

Bonus Tip: Interview Often

I love sharing this tip because it makes such a difference and it works regardless of your experience or the type of program you're interview with.

Interview Skills are a depreciating skill set.  It takes intentional practice to become good at interviewing, and it takes continuous practice to keep them sharp.

One of the best ways to improve your interview skill is to interview often.

By interviewing often you'll become more comfortable with the process.

You'll discover the type of questions and scenarios you can expect to be asked.

You'll develop a better understanding of the type of applicant these programs are looking to hire.

And you'll discover new ways to manage anxiety during the interview.

This is especially important if you're looking to land a job with a particular program, because when it matters most, you want to put your best foot forward.

So, when you've decided it's time to start applying to flight programs, don't limit yourself to just a few programs.  Do a search for all Flight jobs and consider applying to every one that's within a reasonable distance.

Even if you'd never consider taking a job with a particular program, apply anyway because the more you interview the better you'll interview when it matters.

This tip applies to everyone whether you're actively looking for a new job or not.

Even if you have no intention of leaving your current job, I still suggest interviewing at least every 1-2 years.  This keeps those interview skills sharp, and keeps doors open in case you suddenly have a reason to look for a new job.

Thanks for Listening!

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I hope you enjoy this episode! Until next time remember...

"Education is good, but excellence through collaboration is much better!"

Fly Safe, and Live Well!