Becoming a Critical Care Transport Nurse

As hospitals become more specialized, moving patients safely and efficiently between facilities is becoming more common to make sure they receive the best care possible. Registered nurses with critical care experience, emergency room nurses or even former paramedics who have completed nursing school may find themselves exploring the position of a critical care transport nurse (CCTN). They are already familiar with high-pressure situations that require quick reactions and may be ready for a new role.

What Is a Critical Care Transport Nurse?

A CCTN is responsible for providing emergency care for patients as they are transported from one place to another. Nurses keep the patient stable throughout transport by assessing, monitoring and intervening using a variety of procedures and interventions. CCTNs often receive specialized training in skills such as intubation, surgical airway or thoracentesis. They may be part of a specialty team such as maternal (high-risk obstetrics), neonatal (high-risk premature infants) or pediatrics, while some have a more general role caring for all patients, infants through adult.

What Do Critical Care Transport Nurses Do?

Transport nursing is fast-paced and high-pressure. CCTNs work with limited supplies and in close proximity to their patients, so the ability to think creatively and quickly is crucial. You must have strong interpersonal skills, as effective communication during transport may mean the difference between life and death. Organizational skills are also important as you are responsible for preparing the materials and medicine needed to transport that patient  there's no stopping for more supplies.

Transport nurses work in a variety of settings in the United States and abroad. They may work in public, private or even government roles. Common healthcare settings for transport nurses are:

  • Ambulance services
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Emergency medical flight companies (AeroCare, AirMed, Angel MedFlight, CareFlite, etc.)
  • Federal institutions
  • Search and rescue teams
  • Military settings

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Transport Nurse?

All transport nurses must have their RN license, and a growing number of employers are requiring a BSN. Employers also look for nurses who have experience with medical emergencies — in fact, the certifications to become a transport nurse require a specific number of hours to sit for the exam. These nurses usually acquire this experience in the intensive care unit (ICU), emergency department (ED), trauma centers or neonatal ICU for specialty positions.

To become a transport nurse, you must become certified by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. Depending on the position, you will need one of these certifications:

  • Certified Flight Registered Nurse
  • Certified Transport Registered Nurse

Most employers want additional certifications to show that you have mastered the necessary skills to become a transport nurse. These certifications may include:

  • Basic Cardiac Life Support
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program
  • Transport Professional Advanced Trauma Course
  • Certified Emergency Nurse or Critical Care Nurse

Average Salary and Job Outlook Information

ZipRecruiter places the average salary for flight/transport nurses at $77,822 per year, with top earners making $135,000, as of December 2019. The exact salary varies depending on location, employer and experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported a 12% increase in jobs for nurses between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the national average. Although transport nursing does not have the same turnover rate as nursing in general, many new companies are looking to hire transport nurses.

How Can Earning a BSN Help?

Many specialties require a BSN, and transport nursing is following that trend. A BSN program trains you in more than just in-depth assessment and pathophysiology; it teaches you critical thinking, leadership and communication skills, all of which are important to becoming an effective transport nurse.

Like every job in healthcare, transport nursing comes with both challenges and rewards. CCTNs have a very autonomous role, providing care that requires more advanced skills. Many patients who require transport are in very critical condition. Each call is unique, and every patient is different in their specific situation. But all CCTNs are able to reassure their patients and caregivers during a time of great vulnerability.

Learn more about UNM's online RN to BSN program.


EveryNurse: How to Become a Transport Nurse

Global Pre-Meds: Working As a Critical Care Transport Nurse

Nurse Buff: How to Be a Transport Nurse: A Complete Guide

Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association: What Are Some of the Common Pre-Requisites to Move Into the Transport Nursing Environment?

ZipRecruiter: Flight/Transport Nurse Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Registered Nurses

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