Requirements to Become a Helicopter Paramedic

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Helicopters are a difficult environment to provide emergency medical care.
Helicopters are a difficult environment to provide emergency medical care. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Flight paramedics provide emergency medical assistance to patients who are being transported to a medical facility capable of providing them with necessary treatment. These patients are often in the most critical condition, testing any paramedic's skills. In addition, the realities of flight add a layer of complexity and hazard to the life of a flight paramedic. It takes serious skill and dedication to become a flight paramedic, and a good bit of luck.

Competition

The International Association of Flight Paramedics estimates that the U.S. has approximately 1,200 flight paramedics and that each job opening draws about 250 applications. To be competitive, you will need a bachelor's degree. IAFP also recommends that you be up-to-date on the latest research and literature in paramedics; and that you be able to demonstrate independence, refined diplomatic skills, and a sound decision-making ability.

Educational Qualifications

On top of your general high school and college education, you will need to undergo paramedic training. This usually takes one to two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A certified training program includes instruction in anatomy and physiology, emergency medical skills, and public health. Afterward, IAFP recommends you accrue several years of experience as a paramedic in a hectic emergency medical service environment, particularly a hospital emergency room setting or critical care unit.

Licensure and Certification

To become a flight paramedic, you first must be a licensed paramedic registered both nationally and in your state. All 50 states require licensure. You will be able to obtain your license after completing an accredited paramedic training program. To become a flight paramedic, IAFP also recommends certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, and international trauma life support or prehospital trauma life support.

Special Requirements

The life of a flight paramedic carries risks that other paramedics aren't likely to face. You must be resistant to motion sickness and unafraid of heights. You need to be steady and alert in a vehicle that moves not just in one dimension, but three. You must be able to acclimate yourself to the loud noises of helicopter engines, and cope with the exhaust emissions from the operation of the vehicle.

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