The path to becoming a certified flight paramedic begins long before taking the NREMT exam, and even before sitting down to study materials for the test itself. The good news is that there’s no minimum requirement for education or paramedic field experience in order to receive certification, though specific requirements do need to be met before beginning a career in the field. Therefore, it is wise to begin the correct steps now, early on in the process, to avoid extra time wasted.
Though the training requirements for this position are often intense and competition is great, the satisfaction of becoming one of the most sought-after paramedics in the field is worth the extra effort.
Path Towards Flight Medic Certification
The key to success in this field is two-fold: Having a solid plan of action and beginning the certification and training processes as soon as possible. It is never too early to begin taking the necessary steps to becoming a flight paramedic, and some devoted individuals may begin consideration as early as high school.
An individualized action plan will depend primarily on the one’s age, level of education and experience, but will include the following basics:
An Understanding for the nature of the field through research, including mandatory requirements for each step of the process
Planning an education that suits these requirements, as well as recommended extra training and courses
Obtaining the proper education and clinical training through a community college, technical school or 4 year university
Beginning work in the EMT field as soon as possible by researching local companies and positions available
Researching specific companies that employ Flight Paramedics, including their minimum requirements for applicants, pay rate and working conditions
Obtaining all necessary certifications listed in sections below, finalizing the training processes with a FP-C certification
Many informational websites devoted to the field will offer an overview of both the Path to Becoming a Flight Paramedic and the typical careers available in the field. These are excellent resources to not only gain a basic understanding of the professional life of a flight medic, but help determine if this field is best suited for your passion and personality.
Nature of the Field
Those that complete the necessary requirements enjoy a career that is not only rewarding and challenging, but with time is highly lucrative. The average entry-level flight paramedic salary pays approximately $35,000, but once one has gained an adequate level of experience, he or she can earn more than $50,000 annually, placing it within the top paying paramedic positions available.
Positions in this specialized field of emergency care are highly competitive, with an average of 50 applicants per one part-time position in more rural areas such as Rockford Illinois. These positions increase in numbers for busier, urban cities as well.
Depending on where an individual is employed, some flight paramedics work solely on the mobile response unit, while others may assist in the emergency room of a hospital in between necessary transports. Often, the patient being transported is in need of the same care in the helicopter that would be expected in the ER of a hospital. Therefore, paramedics in this field are required to function at a higher level than other paramedic fields, performing many of the same duties as done by Critical Care Nurses.
Before a candidate qualifies to take the FP-C exam, which is the Flight Paramedic Certification examination administered by the BCCTPC (or Board for Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification), prerequisite education and certifications are required. Individuals that are just beginning a career in paramedicine should begin first with these certifications and training before continuing forward to become a flight medic.
- BLS or Basic Life Support Certified
- A current, unrestricted paramedic license and hold a NREMT Certification
- Additional TNACT, ATLS-Audit and CCEMTP certifications are required at most testing facilities
- Advanced Life Support certifications: ACLS (Advanced Cardiac), PALS/PEPP (Pediatric Advanced), and PHTLS/ITLS (Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support)
- Additional recommendations from the BCCTPC include critical care courses through an accredited institution
- 3 to 4 years’ experience working in ground critical care or air transportation units
To start, obtaining a paramedic certification will begin by meeting the appropriate educational requirements. Training for EMT-B certification begins first through most community colleges or 4-year universities, as well as some specialized technical centers and will require approximately 120 to 150 hours of training. This is typically completed in six months to one year depending on the individual.
Once the state test has been taken for EMT certification, many individuals choose to spend an average of 1-2 years in the field while completing the 1,200 to 1,800 hours for paramedic certification. Many certification programs require a minimum of 6 months in the field to complete the test.
Typical training through a two-year degree will include a combination of in-class and clinical training in areas such as anatomy, physiology, advanced life support and trauma. Clinicals are done at local hospitals or ambulance companies. Candidates should do their own due diligence by spending some time researching the training and certification requirements in their specific state.
Once the Paramedic Certification has been obtained, continued education is recommended to remain competitive when applying for flight paramedic positions. Several Critical Care Courses will prove beneficial to candidates, including an education in critical care support, transportation, technician services.
Candidates may also consider receiving all or some of the education recommended by the American Health Education Inc. for those earning a degree in Critical Care Nursing. These and other training courses that assist an individual in providing emergency response care, combined with ground experience in a hectic 911 environment, are critical to obtaining work in this field. It is advised to search local job listings to gain an understanding of the availability and requirements for these basic positions in advance to assure the critical hands-on experience can be obtained.
Preparing for the FP-C Certification Test
The flight paramedic certification, or FP-C, is designed to test critical knowledge and judgment skills of those seeking employment in the field. This is to assure that all individuals working in the field can do so with the required safe and competent practices necessary in a highly specialized field.
Those individuals that possess the prerequisite certifications should begin preparing for the FP-C certification test at least 6 months prior to testing. Fortunately, there are many resources available for preparation.
Begin by downloading a copy of the BCCTPC FP-C Exam Guide, which will provide an overview of the types of questions to expect and the weight of each area of testing on final scores.
The test itself consists of 125 questions in 14 respected areas of emergency and critical care, taking an average of 2 hours to complete. Also, contained in the guide are recommendations for study and preparation useful to students. In addition to locating study guides online, a list of recommended texts is also included in FP-C preparation and includes:
- Air and Surface Patient Transport: Principles and Practice by Renee Semonin Holleran (2009)
- CAMTS Accreditation Standards (9th edition)
- CAAS Accreditation Standards Version 3.0
- Critical Care Transport by A. Pollak (2011)
- Emergency Responder Injuries and Fatalities: An Analysis of Surveillance Data by Ari N. Houser (2004)
- Occupational Safety and Health in the Emergency Services by James S. Angle (2004)
- Manual of Emergency Airway Management by Ron Walls and Michel Murphy
Once the proper recommendations for study have been obtained, self-study requires a degree of discipline to assure you remain on track in preparation. Creating a study plan that sets clear deadlines for completion of each volume of text is a key strategy in successful test preparation.
Consider employing the assistance of friends for review, as well as practice questions as a gauge that the material covered is being properly retained in your mind.
What to Expect During Testing
Before taking the FP-C certification test, individuals are required to upload a copy of their paramedic license and register online. Once a copy of the registration and license have been obtained, the individual will be sent a testing ID number via email, allowing them to take the test.
This should be done at least 3 to 5 business days before taking the paper/pencil exam. Individuals should also download and review a copy of the BCCTPC Handbook to assure that they are completely prepared for the certification test and procedure.
Allow an additional 15 minutes before testing to fill out the proper forms and confirm your identity, including presenting your paramedic license. No pagers or cellphones will be allowed in the testing room, though a simple calculator is acceptable. Computerized versions of testing are now available in all 50 states, but many facilities still provide paper and pencil testing as well. If an individual is opting for a web-based version of testing, it is required by most facilities that they register 2 to 4 weeks in advance.
The results of a paper/pencil examination will be mailed within 4 to 6 weeks after taking the test, while results are immediately available through most facilities if a computerized version has been taken. The following are also general exam fees the individual should expect to pay before testing begins:
- Paper and pencil testing will be $275
- Computer-based testing will require a $335 fee for most facilities or a $435 fee for international web-based testing
- Renewals for non-IAFCCP members is $275 and a late fee of $125 will be assessed if the applicant is renewing within 45 days of expiration
While testing facilities are available in all 50 states, the individual will have to locate the nearest facility in their area to complete the process. Over 200 testing facilities currently exist with a minimum of one facility per state. The IAFCCP website offers a database to locate Testing Facility within each location.
How to Gain a Competitive Edge
In a 2009 Interview, Jason Hums MPH and President of the National Fight Medic Association shared valuable advice with aspiring candidates on How to Become a Flight Medic. Though the primary bulk of Hums’ advice was concerning St. Anthony’s Flight services, it provides a clear example of what the candidate hired on as a flight medic should have to include in a winning resume.
A Medic Copter is a mobile ICU care unit with over 80% of calls involving critical care transports, and therefore the paramedics running this faculty should have proper training. It is essential to obtain both hands on training and classroom education in Critical Care Courses in order to fulfill the roles which can include Balloon pumps, ventilation, 9 types of IV lines, medical drips and other capabilities found in the emergency room of a typical hospital. A combination of Critical Care skills, and if possible ground experience and a critical thinking mentality, are the keys to obtaining a position in this rewarding but highly competitive field.
When it is time for recertification, another essential way to remain up to date on all technical aspects and evolving aspects of the field is to consider continuing education credits offered through such facilities as the BCCTCP website.
Continuing education requirements include a measurement system where contact hours and additional education credits can be used as credits towards renewal. Requirements for this option can be found in the Continuing Education menu of the BCCTCP webpage.
Even after an individual has received certification in this very competitive field, continuing to learn and train is essential to becoming of the top flight medics in the industry.
Be sure to bookmark Paramedic Training Spot for more information!
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