Have you ever dreamed of a job with wings or rotors?
Prepare for liftoff if you’re trying to land a job as a flight paramedic. Here are some tips to position you for the career.
The role of flight paramedic falls under the EMT/paramedic job category.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates EMT and paramedic jobs are expected to grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than many other occupations.
The median pay is about $34,320 annually.
Job tips from a flight paramedic
Tara Vlaun, CCP-C, NRP, flight paramedic and one our lead instructors, shares wisdom about how to stand out from the crowd when you’re trying to land a flight medic job.
Vlaun splits her time between Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Hutchinson Island, Fla. With 20 years of EMS experience and nine as a flight paramedic, she knows how to go into an interview. Expect them to pick your brain about critical-care experience.
“Study up on vent management and critical-care treatments and drugs,” Vlaun said. “They want to know you have sought additional education.”
She even suggested taking our critical-care refresher course to demonstrate your thirst for knowledge.
Expect them to ask questions about how you perform intubation on the patient. If you do not have first-hand experience, she suggests researching it before the interview.
When you take a flight job, the care transitions from 911 emergent care to something that resembles ICU-type care, Vlaun said.
“When you’re working in the 911 setting, it’s shorter initial care, and when you work in a flight situation, more often you’re doing critical-care transport.”
Be confident during the interview. Coming across as arrogant often proves an immediate turnoff, but Vlaun said she has seen it. She said there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
“If you are confidant and polite, that will make you stand out,” she said.
Prepare a set of questions so you can also interview the prospective employer. Ask safety questions and ask about processes and policies. Inquire about their safety record and CAMTS accreditation, Vlaun suggests.
“Ask them what is their ‘3 to say go and 1 to say no policy,’ which means you can turn down a flight — whether its weather related, mechanical or the crew is not communicating well,” Vlaun said.
Certifications you need to be a flight paramedic
FP-C and CCP-C are the advanced certifications paramedics need to work as a flight paramedic, said Monica Newman, executive director with the International Association of Flight & Critical Care Paramedics.
“The FP-C/CCP-C certifications are required by accreditation agencies like CAMTS,” she said. “For instance, if a non-credentialed paramedic were to land a job at PHI Air Medical, they would have to obtain their FP-C or CCP-C within a certain number of months of hire, because PHI Air Medical is a CAMTS accredited organization.”
Some organizations give new flight paramedics between 18 months and two years to take the FP-C exam and get certified. But, according to Newman, it’s case by case, depending on the state you live in and the employer.
It’s also important to have working knowledge of flight physiology, gas laws, FAA standards and CAMTS safety standards, Newman said. Before the interview, study up on these topics if you want to stand out in the interview.
Having the right experience helps you land the job. According to Newman, flight companies typically want incoming paramedics to have critical-care training and experience, along with interfacility transport. And any ICU experience is icing on the cake.
What to expect for the future
Having more education is where the EMS profession is headed, Newman said.
“The degree program is in its infancy, but it’s probably the wave of the future,” she said. “People graduating from paramedic school will (eventually) need an associate degree and flight paramedics will need a bachelor’s degree.”
Newman sees these changes unfolding within about five years.
“The bottom line is, the industry is rapidly changing and requiring advanced education and board certification for paramedics practicing above the national scope of practice,” she said.
Necessary training for flight paramedics
The following are suggested accreditation and training needed for those interested in positioning themselves for a flight paramedic job, according to the International Association of Flight & Critical Care Paramedics.
All states vary, so this is a general list.
- National Registry Paramedic certification
- Instructor certifications in ACLS, ITLS, PHTLS, PALS, etc.
- Experience in a high-volume 911 system
- Experience in critical care, interfacility transport
- Emergency department or ICU experience
- Bachelor’s degree or graduate studies
What else improves your chance of getting the job?
The following certifications, skills and experience will help you shine like a star as you prepare for a flight job:
- National Registry and state level paramedic certification
- Strong clinical decision-making skills
- CPR, ACLS, PALS, ITLS or PHTLS (instructor certifications preferred)
- Hospital experience in emergency department or a critical-care unit
- Three to five years of experience as a certified paramedic in a busy EMS system