Aerospace Nursing

Aerospace flight nursing is concerned with air evacuation/transport of critically-ill and acutely injured patients in military and civilian settings. Specialized training is needed since the sites of evacuation, variable stability of the patients, and the limitations of transport care present challenges. Flight nurses are involved in many phases of medical launch support for the space program, as well. Medical certification, post-landing assessment, and emergency procedures planning and execution, represent only a few of the functions for which their expertise is essential. They also contribute to the activities of hyperbaric support for wound care, toxic exposures, and decompression sickness in diving and flying communities.

Most trained military flight nurses are in the Air Force, either on active duty or reserves, with the remainder employed with the Air National Guard. Though training requirements can vary, the Air Force generally requires the completion of an accredited nursing Bachelor's degree and their flight nursing program (6 weeks). Fulfillment of the requirements for a Class III Flight Physical and Commissioned Officers Training is required, as well. Military hyperbaric chamber facilities offer courses in medical indications, assessment, treatment, and supportive care of patient presentations ranging from non-healing wounds to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Civilian flight nurse training can be even more variable, but there are several training experiences that should be included in preparation for work in this field. Certifications in basic, cardiac, and pediatric advanced life support are fundamental. The Neonatal Resuscitation Program, the Pre-Hospital Advanced Life Support Examination, a nationally recognized trauma course (i.e., the Transport Nurse Advanced Trauma Course), and the Certified Flight Registered Nurse Examination may be required in additional to substantial critical support care experience.

Though clinic responsibilities can often be executed by nurses with occupational medicine backgrounds, the flight nurses involved specifically with space medical support generally have extensive critical care experience. Courses and brief training opportunities are available for specialization in space flight nursing can be found at the Kennedy Space Center .

The annual conferences of the Aerospace Medical Association, Air Medical Transport, Critical Care Transport Medicine, The Emergency Nurses Association, and the Critical Care Transport Medicine, which is held simultaneously with the Air Medical Physicians Association Meeting, provide forums for the display of scientific advances and contributions to flight nursing. The Air Medical Crew National Standards Curriculum and similar documents provide insight into the fundamentals of flight nursing science, while the Air Medical Journal and Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance introduce new, peer-reviewed studies pertinent to the field.

For more information:
   Aerospace Nursing and Allied Health Professionals Society