By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, CBC
Critical Care Transport Nurses work to safely and quickly transport patients requiring life-saving medical intervention. Their job is to effectively assess patients and determine their medical needs and possible interventions that can be done en route to a major healthcare system.
Becoming a Critical Care Transport Nurse requires dedication, commitment, and advanced training. In this guide, we’ll explain what a Critical Care Transport Nurse does, how to become one, how much they make, and more!
Part One What is a Critical Care Transport Nurse?
A Critical Care Transport Nurse is part of the transport team that brings critically ill patients to the hospital for life-saving interventions.
Through advanced training, Critical Care Transport Nurses perform life-saving medical procedures including intubations and/or tracheostomies.
While working in an ambulance or aircraft, Critical Care Transport Nurses collaborate with other healthcare providers to ensure that patients are transported safely and quickly to their final destination.
Part Two What Does a Critical Care Transport Nurse Do?
The main responsibility of a Critical Care Transport Nurse is to make sure patients reach their destinations, whether a hospital or long term care facility, safely and quickly.
Typically, the patients that are being transported are very sick and often need urgent care. It is essential that they are stabilized to the best of the nurse’s abilities but often this is not the case.
Despite caring for patients in a mode of transportation such as an ambulance or a helicopter, the responsibilities of a Critical Care Transport Nurse are similar to those who work in the hospital at the bedside.
A Critical Care Transport Nurse performs a variety of duties including:
- Assessing patients quickly upon arrival
- Monitoring, recording, and evaluating vital signs
- Transporting the patient quickly and safely to a hospital or long term care facility
- Preparing patients for the receiving facility
- Tracking the operation and output of life support equipment including heart monitors
- Cleaning and bandaging wounds
- Administering medications
- Infusing blood products
- Monitoring patients for reactions to medication
- Responding to changes in the patient’s condition
- Collaborating and communicating with other members of the transport care team
- Acting as an advocate for the patient
- Communicating with the hospital staff and medical team about the patient being transported
- Performing procedures as ordered and needed
- Consistently follows evidence-based practice bundles and nursing standards/procedures to provide nursing care that eliminates preventable events of patient harm and promotes excellent patient outcomes
Part Three Critical Care Transport Nurse Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a registered nurse in 2019 is $73,300 per year or $35.24 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary.
The BLS does not differentiate between different specialties of nursing, but Glassdoor.com reports an annual average salary for Critical Care Transport Nurses of $65,870.
Payscale.com reports salaries for Flight Nurses, which are a type of Critical Care Transport Nurse. They found that the annual average salary was $71,158 or $32.06/hr.
Critical Care Transport Nurses can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.
- 1-4 years of experience earn an average hourly salary of $29.44
- 5-9 years of experience earns an average hourly salary of $30.66
- 10-19 years of experience earns an average hourly salary of $36.46
- 20 years and higher years of experience earns an average hourly salary of $40.00
Currently, the highest average paid states for Critical Care Flight Transport Nurses that have reported salaries, according to payscale.com are as follows:
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - $46.50
- Dallas, Texas - $41.00
- Chicago, Illinois - $38.60
- Denver, Colorado - $38.00
- Colorado Springs, Colorado - $35.69
Part Four How Do You Become a Critical Care Transport Nurse?
To become a Critical Care Transport Nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
Step 1: Attend Nursing School
You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to become a registered nurse. ADN-prepared nurses can complete an additional step of completing their BSN degree if they wish.
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN
Become a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.
Step 3: Gain Experience at the Bedside
Prior to becoming a Critical Care Transport Nurse, individuals will be required to have a minimum of two years of critical care bedside experience. New graduates are not usually hired directly into this position.
Step 4: Earn Your Certification
There are several certifications that a Critical Care Transport Nurse can consider:
- Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN): The CTRN is offered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.
- Critical Care (Adult) Registered Nurse (CCRN): The CCRN is offered by The Association of Critical Care Nurses. This is a very common certification for adult critical care nurses.
Part Five Where Do Critical Care Transport Nurses Work?
Critical Care Transport Nurses can work in a variety of settings. Even though they will typically work outside of a normal healthcare setting, they are often associated with a larger company.
These nurses often work in:
They can work for any of the following:
- Government Agencies
- Independent transport companies
- International medical organization
- Long Term Care Facility
Part Six What is the Career Outlook for a Critical Care Transport Nurse?
According to the BLS, in 2018, there were 3,059,800 Registered Nurses in the United States. By 2028, there will be a need for additional 371,500 nurses, which is an expected growth of 12%. Critical Care Transport Nurses are included in these figures.
Part Seven What are the Continuing Education Requirements for a Critical Care Transport Nurse?
Generally, in order for an individual to renew their RN license, they will need to fill out an application, complete a specific number of CEU hours, and pay a nominal fee. Each state has specific requirements and it is important to check with the board of nursing prior to applying for license renewal.
If the RN license is part of a compact nursing license, the CEU requirement will be for the state of permanent residence. Some states require CEUs related to child abuse, narcotics, and/or pain management.
A detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours can be found here.
Part Eight Resources for Critical Care Transport Nurse
- American Nurses Association (ANA)
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association
- The Association of Air Medical Services
Part Nine Critical Care Transport Nurse FAQs
How much money does a Critical Care Transport Nurse make?
- According to Glassdoor.com, a Critical Care Transport Nurse reports an annual average salary of $65,870.
What skills are needed to be a Critical Care Transport Nurse?
- Critical Care Transport Nurses must have strong communication skills, ability to work well in high-pressure situations, organizational skills, ability to work independently, leadership skills, and be flexible.
How long does it take to become a Critical Care Transport Nurse?
- It takes a minimum of six years to become a critical care transport nurse. First, it takes four years to earn a BSN and RN. Then there is a minimum of two years required as a bedside critical care or emergency room nurse. Depending on advanced training, it can take potentially longer to gain a coveted critical care transport nurse position.