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Dual Helicopter Scene Call


And What To Do About It!

Photo of chicken seeing itself as an eagle in a mirrorAir medical is one of the most desired career paths for EMS professionals…

–and one of the most competitive.

Kick-butt paramedics, nurses and pilots are rejected every day because they simply don’t have what it takes to rise above an enormous crowd of candidates.

A lot of wannabes believe it’s the competition keeping them from reaching their dreams.

Sometimes that’s true . . .

But most of the time –it’s just plain wrong.

So What is Keeping You from Your Dream

Have you ever heard the saying “Scratch with the chickens or soar with the eagles?”

The saying is a fable. A life lesson meant to teach us something important. Something we can use in all areas of our lives.

The story goes like this…

The story is about a man who found an eagle’s egg and placed it under a brooding hen.

Eventually, the hen hatched the eagle egg with the chicken eggs she was sitting on. The eagle was raised and grew up just like the chickens.

And because the eagle only knew what it saw, it clacked and clucked like a chicken; scratched the earth for worms like a chicken, and every now and then flew a couple feet in the air like a chicken.

Years passed

Then one day, the eagle, now much older, saw a magnificent bird soaring in the sky.

Amazed, the eagle asked “who’s that?”

“That’s the king of the birds,” said the eagle’s neighbor. “That’s an eagle. He belongs to the sky.”

“But we belong to the earth. …we’re chickens.”

The eagle accepted his neighbor’s answer and lived the rest of his life as a chicken, not even realizing he was meant to soar with the eagle he saw that day.

The moral of the story is that we become the company we keep. Who we hang out with makes a big difference in our lives.

I Used to be Chicken

There was a time in my life, not long after I became a medic, when I was chicken.

I was hanging out with the wrong crowd (scratching with the chickens) and my life showed it.

Luckily, I caught it. And with the help of great parents and great friends, I made some changes in my life.

And before I knew it, I was in flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Looking back, that time in my life scares me. Because if I had stayed on the same course, I would still be scratching with the chickens today.

What’s Your Story

Are you a chicken?

Or an eagle?

Are you failing to reach your goal of flying because of competition? Or because you’re scratching with the chickens? e.g. Holding yourself back? 

Your answer is not as important as your desire.

And realize it’s not about choosing an air or ground career, it’s about being the best you can be– air or ground.

It’s okay if you’re currently holding yourself back. It’s probably not your fault. The key is to make changes.

Change is Hard

So you might be saying to yourself, “Change is hard. And I’m not a young eaglet any more.”

Your age doesn’t matter.

If you need to make changes, you need to make changes. I get the fact that life, relationships, and work all play a part in how quickly you can change. I also get the fact you probably can’t just quit your job to change the company you keep.

But here is what you can do:

Pat yourself on the back for realizing change is needed. Most people never admit this –even to themselves.

Start by managing what’s in your control. How are you spending your free time? Including the free time at work (especially if you’re EMS)? Are you laying on the crew couch sleeping? Or taking a course to improve your life?

Who are you hanging out with when you have a choice? What are you doing to move toward your goal of flying?

Air medical jobs are the best in the world. So if you want one, you have to be willing to do what it takes to get one.

Scratch with the chickens or soar with the eagles. It’s all about making the right choices.

If you’re already working a Flight Safety Net career, tell us how you got started (your initial training) in the comments section below. Sometimes people succeed by following the path of others. Pay it forward and share how and where you got started.

Clear Skies & Tailwinds,


Get the inside scoop on how to get hired in air medical. Check out Flight Safety Net Insider.

Troy Shaffer
Troy Shaffer

About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.

    84 replies to "The Shocking Truth About Why You’re Not Flying Air Medical"

    • Hi Tony, thanks for the feedback. What part of the article do you find egotistical? Or are you referring to the chicken viewing his own image as an “eagle?” We’re always open to suggestions on how to improve. Please let us know.

      Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Zach Greenlee

      I must say, you hit the nail on the head. It is very competitive. I was a hair’s breadth from getting the job I wanted twice and when I finally landed the career of my dreams, it was around the same time that I was accepted into PA school at Stanford. I had to make a tough choice, but decided to take the opportunity to get more education as I could always apply the additional education to flight medicine.

      I learned two things in the process, 1) the pursuit of getting landing a flight medic career looks a lot like the pursuit of getting accepted to a selective PA program. 2) Your friends, family and colleagues are central to developing and fostering the attitudes and character traits needed to succeed in this career.

      The night shifts and day-time college courses for five years may have been exhausting, but they were worth it. We did it all on a single income, with three kids (and an incredibly patient supportive wife helps). I’m glad I made the choices I did about who I partnered with at work and in school. I missed a lot of time with my kids and at times felt like a light breeze would be enough to make me break. I steered away from the burn-outs, the quitters and the complainers, so that even when I was on the verge of becoming or actually became one of these things, even for a short time, it didn’t last for long. I made some wise choices about who my friends would be and these colleagues and friends held me accountable for my attitudes and actions and would give me a hand-up when I got stuck in the (to quote Pilgrim’s Progress) “mire of despondency” and kicked me in the rear when I became THAT guy (the whiner, the quitter, or the burn-out).

      It’s not just bad associates that can hold you back, it’s the good ones that help you achieve. Without the support of these men and women, I would be just another unpleasant, cantankerous, griping, thankless drain on my co-workers and family.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thank you for sharing your experiences.

        I know your experiences will prove inspirational for others trying to start air medical careers, or careers as a Physician’s Assistant (PA).

        I also appreciate and think it’s important to note the value of supportive co-workers and family. None of us reach our goals without supportive friends and family.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Sandra G

      Thank you , That was probably the best advice anyone has given me in a long time . I know after being sick and having a long recovery time , I can and will go back to what I love the most caring for people , weather onto the ground or in the air.

      • Troy Shaffer


        You’re very welcome. I hope the article helps you.

        The medical and aviation communities wish you a speedy recovery and look forward to your return to the workplace (on the ground or in the air).

        Clear Skies and Tailwinds

    • Jana

      For those that do not already work for an air medical service your points ring true. The answer to the question that the title of this article poses, “why am I not flying?” is our air medical service flies R.N.’s only. AND, only those that are 200 lbs. or under. So that eliminates me on both of those points. Our MICU Paramedics in my same situation have been forced to attain a professional certification, either CCP-C or FP-C, to satisfy CAMTS accreditation. Those that chose FP-C hang around long enough to get a job at an air medical service that flies Paramedics and they are GONE. Even if I bridged from Medic to RN, I would have to “go away” for 3 years and be a ED nurse or ICU nurse, then I could re-apply to the flight program… IF they had an opening. So, I think I’m good where I’m at currently. Right now I’m perfectly happy taking care of the really sick people on the MICU and off-loading the aircraft when it comes in. Maybe someday, under different medical direction and different program top management, Paramedics will fly and perform the job on “scene responses” that they were trained to do.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for commenting.

        Just FYI, the most typical air medical crew configuration in the United States is one pilot, one nurse and one medic. So there are other options if you choose to pursue them.

        The 200 pound weight limit you reference is the most restrictive we’ve heard of in the United States; although some aircraft require lower crew weights due to power issues.

        The CCP-C or FP-C certification requirements are typical of most air medical programs and seem to be gaining in popularity with most programs.

        MICU is its own esteemed career path. Even if you never decide to fly, it is a very noble and worthwhile career. Thanks again for sharing your story. I know it will help others.

        Clear Skies and Tailwinds

    • Walter Waganka


    • Justin Misuraca

      Very true. You have to put the effort in. It is totally worth it. I have been doing transport as a Respiratory Therapist since 2001. I still love it just as much as when I started. If you are not getting better. The person that is might just step up and take that job of yours.

      • Troy Shaffer


        It is a pleasure to hear from a Respiratory Therapist. We’ve been working hard to ensure Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) is a profession recognized and included on the Flight Safety Net team. Your comments make us feel like we’re succeeding.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Robbie Wilkens

      Treat your equipment like a crew member ! Respect it and it will never let you down. Flying Helo’s is very dangerous when you seat and think about it . So don’t, God Bless & Fly Safe

      • Troy Shaffer


        “Treat your equipment like a crew member ! Respect it and it will never let you down.”

        Sounds like good advice to me.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Denese Tyler-Kuykendall

      I flew for a while… Before we moved back to SE OK… It was my ultimate goal as a nurse… And it rocked!!!!!!

    • George Gribbin

      For what is expected of the crew and the risks taken the salaries in air medical are pretty pathetic. I worked for 2 different agencies over a 4 year period. Now I am supervising for a small municipal ground agency. I make a little more money, get far better benefits, a real pension plan and I get to sleep at home with my wife every night. I don’t see what the big draw is for air medical.

      • Troy Shaffer


        I think it comes down to personal choice. Some air medical professionals love flying and can’t imagine doing anything else – regardless of the pay. Some medics (and nurses) prefer ground careers and again can’t imagine doing anything else. The hope of the article was to inspire people to do their best no matter which path they choose.

        Thanks for sharing your experience and good luck with the new position.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Hez Mendoza

      No wings yet

      • Troy Shaffer


        Stay focused. Be persistent. Learn everything you can. You’ll get there!

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Benjamin Karl Bagley

      it’s a very stressful job and sometimes personalities are demanding on the crews and staff , and conflicts arise a lot in air crews and ground crews ”ie , er staff , ems , fire dept and police ”……..js

      • Troy Shaffer


        You’re right. But conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing. EMS, Fire & Police are full of passionate and driven people. So a lot of the conflict comes with the territory. My suggestion is rather than focus on some of the inevitable conflicts when you put a group of passionate and driven people together –remember how blessed you are to work with passionate and committed professionals. Not everybody is so lucky!

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Stacy Futer

      Too bad the pay is crap

      • Nilse Cano Seba

        maybe, but you don’t do it for the money, you do it because you like it, love it and enjoy ………

        • Troy Shaffer


          Good on you for doing a job you love. But remember to balance your passion for the job with a realistic assessment of how much income you need to live the lifestyle you want to live. EMS and Air Medical professionals need (and in my opinion, deserve) pay commensurate to other public service professionals.

          Clear Skies & Tailwinds

      • Troy Shaffer


        We wish the pay was higher.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • George Gribbin

      Most places the ground services pay far better. .

      • Troy Shaffer


        I would be careful not to make sweeping generalizations about pay. In some areas ground services do pay better, but “far better” is subjective and there are also many examples where air services pay higher rates. Every position involves personal choice and preference –and a lot factors beyond pay.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Trevor Zaharsky

      This article is such a joke lol.

      • Hi Trevor, What part of the article do you find funny?

      • Trevor Zaharsky

        The whole thing actually. I think the one who wrote the article is obviously bias.

        • Troy Shaffer


          You’re right. I wrote the article and I am bias. I think air medical jobs are some of the best in the world. 🙂 I also respect the ground crews and have met a ton of extremely talented ground based medics and nurses. The point is to do your best and reach your full potential in the air or on the ground.

          Clear Skies & Tailwinds

      • Bias towards what? Believing air medical jobs are difficult to obtain? Or something different? Thanks for commenting.

    • Lauren Stouder

      Lol phrases like “air medical is the best job in the world” and implying that all EMS people strive to attain the elite status of flight medic DOES come off a little arrogant, condescending and a touch egotistical…working in a competitive position doesn’t necessarily mean everyone wants it…the ratio of available flight positions to ambulance positions kinda skews things, don’t you think?

      • Lauren, thanks for the feedback. And yes, we agree the number of available positions does skew things in terms of how many people can actually fly. Having said that, we didn’t consider the article arrogant or egotistical, and we know it wasn’t meant that way. We just love air medical and the chance to fly and help people at the same time. And we really do think it’s the best job in the world! But again, thank you for the feedback. We didn’t consider things in this light until you pointed it out.

      • Lauren Stouder

        I agree. I don’t think it was intentional at all. But it seems nowadays that people take offense to everything. 🙂

      • Donna Wood

        Some paramedics would rather keep to the ground. I prefer to respond to the calls and if necessary hand patient care to to the flight crews for transport. As a first responder we have to use every skill and training to care for patients, whether critical or just to comfort someone. Also the other reason I don’t fly is I have had to many friends die in aircraft crashes. I don’t plan on being one.

        • Troy Shaffer


          Nobody can fault you for personal preferences outside of air medical. And of course all air medics start on the ground and understand the truth in what you’re saying. Having said that, hopefully you already know the Flight Safety Network team includes everyone who keeps air medical safe – air and ground. Thank you for choosing a job that helps people.

          Clear Skies & Tailwinds.

    • Bridget Strong

      Working EMS is hard enough without there being competition in the ranks as well. I have worked as a flight medic, on trucks and independently as a remote site medic – each has its own challenges and skill set. Flight medicine was probably the easiest – difficult patient – “sedate and intubate” was the management – the excuse being couldn’t afford a difficult patient in flight – that is true but can’t do that on the trucks – you manage them taking abuse and insults along the way – not everyone wants to be an eagle and there is nothing wrong with that – doesn’t make them a chicken!

      • Bridget, thanks for commenting. The chicken reference in the article has nothing to do with being chicken to fly. The chicken reference is about being afraid to reach your full potential and how hanging out with the wrong people can hold you back.

    • Jeff Curran

      Anytime a caregiver let’s their feelings get in the way of what may be best for the patient everybody loses.

      • George Gribbin

        The post mentioned nothing about feelings getting in the way of patient care.

    • Dom Ventura

      Lmao….”asshat”…. Sounds like someone didn’t pass their Fl-P test and is bitter.

    • Dustin Galliazzo

      I think it’s questionable anytime somebody tries to implicate that their personal opinion can cover a wide swath of people and circumstances.

    • Kevin K. Harris

      Let’s see, why don’t choppers fly.
      Someone on the crew is sleepy
      Might rain
      Might snow
      Might be foggy
      No matter what the wheels turn, ground transport runs, so I have never gotten the attitude SOME I SAY AGAIN, SOME, of the flight peeps get.

    • Christy Speakman

      Kevin, we don’t fly when it’s foggy because the crew could die.. be a little more conscious of that please. I’ve also never turned down a flight because I was sleepy. I’d lose my job if that were the case. 48 hour shift, and we fly any time day or night. None of the medics or nurses I work with act pretentious, but I have seen people’s comments where they put someone down that is just looking for info on how to get into the field. It takes experience, yes, but we all started from scratch. It takes extra training, yes, but we all started without knowledge.

    • Christy Speakman

      It isn’t nice to joke about crews flying in bad weather. I just lost three co-workers because of that. We have to be safe.

    • Christy Speakman

      Also, I know some amazing incredible nurses who don’t fly because they 1: Get motion sickness 2: Love being at home every night with their kids 3: They make more money working in the hospital then they would flying

    • Mark Schwarz

      Hmmm we fly when it rains-snows-fog and our Pilot won’t give a damn if I am sleepy or not, however I have never given ground guys any attitude , I used to be ground myself !? I haven’t met a flightmedic yet that graduated and went straight away to air. Asshats exist everywhere…ground or air. I just wear a different uniform but I work for the same club. That’s how I see it anyways.

    • Rosanna Tarsiero

      It’s circular thinking “you’re pretentious because I said so therefore you are and stop being so”. No definite charge, nothing that could be proven or disproven. In other words, fluff.

    • Bridget Strong

      I did get that – it was more the attitude that came through – given the choice, having flown with the eagles and scratched with the supposed chickens I will stay on the ground knowing I can fly if I choose – its the competitive attitude that disturbs me!

      • Bridget, thanks again for commenting. Air medical jobs are very competitive and that’s part of the point of the article. But again, a sincere thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      • Valerie Womack

        When I was on an ambulance-the flight crews were usually very friendly.
        Now that I fly- I try to be just as approachable…

    • Kelly Junker

      What is an ‘asshat’ anyway? Is it like a top hat? Does it sit on one cheek, or both? Is it fitted? Cause there are obviously several sizes.
      Every flight medic I work with came of several years on the box. I still work part time on the ground and enjoy it every bit as much. Contrary to this person bent on insulting milliners, we rely on our ground crews because many of them are our friends and we would not have a job without them.
      However, HEMS is different. It is dangerous(the weather comment), and we are exposed to a higher frequency of acute patients. So it does take some work and a good amount of additional education.
      Anyway. If the service in your area is rude, call a different one. I think this post is mostly accurate and hardly pretentious. Have to work for what you want… Did make me want an omelet though…

    • Larry Trusty

      Ok one I’m a ground guy when I have worked w air medics or nurses they have been outstanding towards crews even ask us to help them and Christy speak man I agree safety first and pt care first I STAND BESIDE AIR MEDICS AND NURSES thank you for all you do from a FF EMT I’m always thankful and happy to have the help and no matter the patch or title we all have the same mission god speed

    • John Dart

      Team effort people , team effort , it’s not about you, (air or ground) it’s about the patient

    • Bill Williams

      I totally agree with the writer. Most of the flight crews have their noses in the clouds.

    • John Fekety

      I don’t fly because the drugs my patients may need, will be gone about 1 minute after the flight begins.

    • Steve Black

      The paramedics and nurses I fly with are some of the most highly trained and qualified medical providers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. They are the top of their field. I have personally seen instances where our program is requested for an incident because the level of care they are able to provide exceeds what is available by ground transport.

      Yes, there are ALS ground transport options out there. But they are not always available, or as expedient as a helicopter can be. More often than not, the first responders to a scene are BLS, EMT’s, etc. It is these people who usually decide whether that higher level of care we provide is needed for the case in question.

      The reason air medical providers are typically better is because they are required to be by their employers.

    • Peter James

      I have be an paramedic for 39 years and think you should be ashamed of yourself for treating fellow paramedics like that, it is irrelevant wether they drive or fly. They are your comrades. There are enough people out there ready to criticise the profession without doing it from the inside.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Are you referencing the article above? Or something different?

        Just FYI, the comparison between the chicken and the eagle is not a comparison between air and ground paramedics. The original fable is thousands of years old, and the point of the article is the same as the original fable – Don’t let self-imposed limitations or false barriers keep you from reaching your full potential – flying air medical, working as a ground paramedic, or any other career you choose. I hope that makes sense and clears up any confusion. I certainly appreciate and respect anyone who has given their life to helping others. Thank you for commenting.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Victoria Meier

      Well, to me it sounded like the article was supposed to be inspirational. It wasn’t that one group was better than the other, it was just trying to redirect people to go where they belong. It’s a shame that one person of one group judged everyone of another. I do both ground stuff and flying (not as a medic), and I have encountered more stuck up grounders than flight crews.

      • Troy Shaffer


        You’re correct. The point is to inspire people to take action and get started on whichever career path they choose – air or ground. Some people think the article is a comparison of air and ground crews. It’s not. There are lots of extremely talented and skilled ground paramedics that prefer ground careers. The point is for all of us to reach our full potential. Thanks for sharing.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds.

    • Roger De La Rosa

      Don’t tell me fables. I’m an adult. The point please.

      • Troy Shaffer


        The point is that if you want to fly you have to work hard and earn it.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds.

    • Dan Hall

      Go Troy!

      • Troy Shaffer

        Thanks Dan! It seems a long time since you mentored me at my first air medical job. I know it’s more than a little late, but…. thank you.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Lauren Burke Sutton

      Great article!

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for the feedback and for taking time to comment.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Keith Luce

      Funny how this ties right into last night’s session.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for commenting. And you’re right. This article, like almost all of our articles, focuses on how to improve the Flight Safety Network team. We mostly write about the “four pillars” of Air Medical Safety –Teamwork, Communications, Common Sense, & Leadership. And every now and then we throw in a rogue topic or two.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Garry West

      The Airmedical jobs are good jobs for pilots, nurses, and paramedics.
      However, for the amount of education and qualifications required, the pay and benefits are far below what they should be.

      Then there are the risks associated with the job to be considered.

      • Troy Shaffer


        I agree with you regarding air medical pay.

        But you also have to remember private sector pay is a function of what the market will bear and what employees will accept. Long story shortened, we get paid less because we’re (or somebody next in line) is willing to accept less.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Garry West

      I suppose I should mention that I flew EMS for thirty years without killing myself or hurting anyone, but it was something I thought about every day.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for commenting. It’s good to get seasoned input (especially regarding pay). A lot of folks are so excited about their first flight job that they sometimes forget to negotiate pay the same way they would negotiate pay at any other job.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds.

    • Louis

      This is so true I am hoping to start with my EMT course next year and build up to Flight Medic.

      I came out of a family of Fire fighters & EMTS and never wanted to go into that line of work until one day when a Friend who is a DR in the trauma unit told me to come and work with him.

      From that day I was hooked in helping people I’ve done my 1st aid level 3 and next up is my American Association BLS course then to the EMT-B & EMT-P followed with the Flight medic.

      I just want things to go faster so I can start working in the EMS line.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Welcome to the EMS, Air Medical, & Flight Safety Net family! 🙂

        Good on you for choosing a career that helps people.

        I understand your desire to get things done as quickly as possible. But please understand everything happens in its own time, for a reason. There are no “shortcuts” to the hard work and commitment required to become professional flight crew. The good news is that because there are no shortcuts, you’ll appreciate the accomplishment even more.

        Check out the Flight Safety Net Crew Newsletter and INSIDER training program for tips and advice to make things go as smoothly as possible.

        Again, good on you, and welcome to the family!

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Vahe Ender

      Why not go all out and do something like “The Grim Reaper HATES him. Find out this Flight Nurse’s one WEIRD trick to save lives!” That’ll definitely get you your page views.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for the feedback. I guess. 🙂

        Have you considered a career as a professional copywriter? Your headline, albeit a sarcastic one, actually did get my attention.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

    • Graham Mercer

      love the careflight chopper

    • Nick Ayres

      Megan you need to follow this blog! Lots of good info for people who want to fly.

    • Ken Solomon

      Brandon Tompkins

    • Nick Ayres


    • Dominick Walenczak

      I also don’t fly because until the local flight service employs an Mi-26, I don’t think I’m airworthy. 😉

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