How to become a flight Nurse
The RCN In-flight Nurses Association gets numerous queries about how to become an in-flight nurse. This section will help interested nurses working in the UK understand the steps required to be prepared for in-flight work.
Professional Registration & Competency
Following qualification, nurses wishing to become an in-flight nurse need to satisfy a period of consolidation in a branch of nursing. This is usually in general nursing in acute/critical care, but also can cover acute Mental Health, Acute Paediatrics or midwifery. The period of consolidation is around 3 years following initial registration and will be set by the training institution.
The NMC in its consultation on post registration education consultation has defined competency as:
"the skills and abilities to practice safely and effectively without the need for direct supervision" (NMC 2004)
The same consultation goes on to say about proficiency as:
"Programmes that develop nurses working at a level beyond initial registration must be professionally led and practice-focused. The role of theory is to provide the supporting expert knowledge relevant to the nurse's field of practice" NMC 2004
There are two avenues of work in the United Kingdom to work as an in-flight nurse:
- Commercial In-flight Nursing
- Military (Armed Services) In-flight Nursing
Commercial In-flight Nursing
The majority of recruits in in-flight use this option. This is where nurses work for commercial companies (commonly referred to Assistance Companies) providing repatriation and aeromedical logistics for insurance, overseas companies and embassies as well as some private individuals. Each company currently sets its own requirements some of which may be different to what is listed here. However, we are advising practitioners of what is expected of a registered nurse in the UK under current professional regulatory requirements as set by the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC).
Following a period of consolidation of registration onto the NMC register, nurses need to be able to demonstrate they have had appropriate training to develop their competencies and proficiency for in-flight nursing work. Such programmes should be specific to their needs and will prepare them to practice in the environment in which they will work. The RCN Institute has accredited an In-flight Nursing course run by London's Southbank University which meets those requirements. This course is ran annually, and information on how to apply is available on this website
This course prepares the practitioner to transfer their currents skills into the in-flight environment. It does not provide a qualification to cover all branches of nursing, i.e. Registered Nurses working in General (acute care) will not have had the skills and competencies to manage patients with Acute Mental Health (who we would expect a Registered Nurse in Mental Health to accompany), likewise in paediatrics or midwifery. There are specific entry requirements between the RCN Institute at LSBU In-flight Course.
Following a period of training, registrants then could approach assistance companies for working with them. Commercial assistance companies usually are linked to insurance companies as this is where the bulk of commercial repatriation is generated from. Work can be freelance (as and when) or working for them full time, usually a balance with office and flying duties.
Military (Armed Services) In-flight Nursing
In the UK, the Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Services (PMRAFNS) provides training for nurses working in the Royal Air Force engaged in aeromedical services. Website as follows: www.pmrafns.org
FAQ (frequent Asked Questions) on in-flight nursing
Q: Do I need to do a course to become an in-flight nurse?
A: Yes, without appropriate training in the area of work, you will be unable to demonstrate training for competency, and will not be covered by liability insurance.
Q: Can practise I as an in-flight nurse without doing the RCN In-flight Course?
A: Yes, however, you must be satisfied that the course train's you in all the aspects required of in-flight nursing, and should be a nursing specific course. The only recommended courses for in-flight nurses are those listed on this page as they have both the depth of knowledge and have been validated as appropriate.
Q: What does the course offer?
A: The course gives a full overview and preparation for in-flight work. Go to the LSBU website and enter In-flight Nursing in the course search for further information: www.lsbu.ac.uk
Q: Where can I get a list of assistance companies in the UK?
A: There are a number of sources including joining the Hermes website (www.scanhermes.co.uk) and journals such as the ITIJ.
Q: I have trained overseas and am interested in becoming an in-flight nurse. Is this possible?
A: You should ensure you have adapted as required by the NMC to gain registration. Following any adaptation requirements, unless you have been trained in in-flight nursing you would be expected to train as above.
Q: I am a registered nurse - in general, can I repatriate patients with mental health needs?
A: The course prepares you to work in the aeromedical environment and provides you with the skills to transfer your current knowledge and competencies in that environment. It does not give you the knowledge skills and competencies to nurse patients in another branch of nursing, i.e. mental health. Therefore such patients would need a registered nurse - mental health.
For more information see also: