A flight paramedic is a specialized paramedic who can carry out advanced life support procedures for people being transported to hospitals via medical helicopters. Anyone who wishes to work as a flight paramedic, will first need to be certified as a general paramedic and they may need to have worked in that field prior to pursuing a flight medic career.
Flight paramedics are often called upon to treat the most critical of patients in the field. This is why they need to have so many life support certifications and such expertise. They play a very vital role in the survival rates of individuals who are critically ill or injured. You will need to be able to work with young, middle aged and elderly patients. It will also be necessary to have training to care for children, infants and even newborns. Be prepared to even provide care to pregnant mothers.
You may have to work in difficult weather conditions or on difficult terrain. Sometimes a person will be trapped somewhere and you will need to begin working to provide emergency care before they can be moved and transported to the hospital.
The job will require you to be skilled and knowledgeable. You will need to think and act quickly. Sometimes you will need to get creative to provide the ideal care under the circumstances.
What you need to become a flight paramedic
There are various requirements for a person wishing to pursue a career as a flight paramedic
- They cannot be younger than 18 years old and must have graduated high school or hold a GED
- Must already be a fully licensed ground paramedic
- They must have attend a program accredited by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians for their ground paramedic certifications
- Some employers may require a flight paramedic to have 3 or more years experience in the field
- The person must be willing to submit to random drug and alcohol screenings
- Must be in good physical shape
- Able to lift up to 250 pounds in addition to the weight of their full uniform and gear
- Must be up to date on all critical immunizations
- Must pass a criminal background check
- NREMT Certifications
- Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support Certifications
- Pediatric Life Support Certification
- Pre-Hospital Life Support/Flight Paramedic Certification
If you meet all of the above requirements, you can sit for the certification exam
Before pursuing a career as a flight paramedic consider the following:
- Do you feel confident you can fly in a medical aircraft without becoming nervous or ill?
- Can you work in extremely high stressful situations often in less than ideal working conditions?
- Will you be ready to respond to frequent calls during shifts of long hours
- Do you have a true desire to help patients in their lives ones in the most difficult of times
- Are you willing to pursue many different certifications to prepare you not only for the certification exam but for your career as a flight paramedic
Flight Paramedic Exam
The Flight Paramedic test is named the FP-C exam. The exam is usually designed to allow you to take 2 and ½ hours to complete. You should be prepared to answer about 125 multiple choice questions. These questions are designed to cover 12 core concepts. You will need to have an in depth understanding of the following topics to be successful on the test:
- Cardiac care
- Thoracic Care
- Airway Management
- Respiratory Care
- Acid-Base Balance
- Neonatal and Pediatric
- Field Stress
- Flight Physiology
Different sections of the test will have a varying number of questions. You can expect to be asked the most questions regarding critical cardiac care.
More In Depth Look
Let’s take a more in depth look about things you will need to know to work successfully as a flight paramedic.
- Airway Management including advanced procedures
- Trauma Management with advanced procedures
- Neurological Care (especially identifying potential stroke patients)
- Assessing and caring for burn patients before arriving at the hospital
- OB/GYN emergencies including high risk deliveries
- Pediatric cardiac and respiratory care
- Adult cardiac and respiratory care
- Pediatric and Neonatal urgent care
- Toxic exposure care
You will also need to know a little bit about the aircraft in which you will work. And flight safety and survival if there is a technical program on board. In fact, ins one cases you will need to be the co-pilot if the pilot needs assistance. This would involve you having some understanding of the use of some of the helicopter instruments as well as knowing how to use the radio.
Flight Paramedics will perform various procedures in the field. The exact procedures will depend on the legal scope of practice in your area but may include things like:
- Trach tubes
- Inserting chest tubes
- Inserting IVs
- Administering oral and IV medications
- Delivering babies including high risk deliveries
- Using Automatic Defibrillators
- Using external pacemakers
- Cardiac testing including EKG’s
- Caring for individuals in shock
- Splinting broken bones
- Wound and Tissue injury care
- Blood Transfusions
These are just a few examples. You will be trained to perform a wide range of life saving techniques prior to arrival at the hospital.
Flight paramedic Salary and Job Outlook
On average, Flight Paramedics earn about $50,000 per year. However, some can earn $60,000 to $70,000. Salary can depend on your location, expertise and years as a Paramedic or Flight Medicine. Some flight paramedic jobs have more competitive salary and benefits packages than others.
Since the career is growing so quickly, that means that people who have this advanced training, should not struggle to much to find good employment. And as such, they may be able to ask for higher salaries.
The flight paramedic career is currently among some of the fastest growing careers. It is something to consider if you are already a paramedic and looking for an even more challenging career.
You will receive benefits as a flight paramedic. The package will vary from one employer to another. You might receive things like: paid time off, health insurance and a 401K plan.
Some hospitals have their own medical aircraft. In others cases, you will work for an ambulance or emergency medical service company. You may find the most employment opportunity in city areas or near larger hospitals and particular trauma centers.
It is important to have an understanding of the working conditions you will face as a Flight Paramedic. You will have to make decisions quickly and act fast. You will need to be prepared to work in a sometimes loud environment as you are transported with the patient to the hospital. While on the aircraft, you must be prepared to provide care in pretty tight spaces.
As a flight paramedic, you can can be called out at any time of day or night when on shift or if on call. Be ready to respond to calls very quickly and without warning. You need to prepared to work on weekends and holidays as well. Some days you may have a lot of calls and other days only a few.
The job can be stressful as you will quite literally have people’s lives in your hand. You must be confident and decisive in your decision making.
A job as a flight paramedic can certainly offer you a rewarding, always changing and challenging career. The work will sometimes be hard, stressful and even sad. But you will have the chance to save and improve many lives throughout your career. If you are already a paramedic, this might be your next step to consider. If you are not already a paramedic, you will first need to attend an approved paramedic training program. You will need to pass the licensing exam. Then it will be necessary to meet all the prior mentioned Flight Paramedic requirements before you can set for the FP-C exam to become licensed to work as a flight medic.