A nurse who works on an oil platform needs some special skills, among them the ability to function on little sleep if she is on call for long periods. She must be comfortable traveling to the platform by helicopter or boat and making decisions with no support, as she may be the only medical professional on the rig. She must also be able to work in an environment that -- unlike the nursing profession -- is heavily male-dominated.
The first decision on the road to becoming an oil platform nurse is basic nursing education. Nurses can take the NCLEX-RN licensing exam by completing an associate degree, a nursing diploma or a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The first requires two years, the second two or three years and the third takes four years. Although any of the three degrees may help a registered nurse obtain an entry-level position, oil rig nursing is likely to require an experienced nurse with training in communication, leadership and critical-thinking skills, which the BLS notes is more likely to be found in a baccalaureate program.
Licensing and Experience
After graduation the nurse must complete the NCLEX-RN exam with a passing grade. She will then be able to apply for a license in her home state. A new graduate nurse is unlikely to have the skills needed to work on an oil rig immediately. For example, she will benefit from critical care or emergency room experience, according to a career profile on the Petroleum Industry Human Resources Committee website. She may also need to perform routine screening exams, such as blood pressure and cholesterol checks, or treat chronic medical conditions, so training in outpatient care is also useful.
Providing Nursing Care
A nurse who works on an oil platform must be prepared to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, but she may also be required to deal with emergencies such as heart attacks or injuries. Oil rigs can be dangerous places. Weather conditions can be severe, especially in winter or during a storm, leading to slippery conditions. Workers can slip and fall from catwalks to the platform below, and there may be the possibility of falling off the platform into the sea. The nurse is the first responder in all of those conditions and may be required to complete a survival training course in some organizations.
Demand and Job Outlook
Demand for registered nurses is expected to be higher than average, according to the BLS, with a job growth rate of 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. Although the bulk of drilling rigs are land-based, the “Oil and Gas Journal” reports in an August 2013 article that the United States has 62 rigs drilling offshore. Almost all of those rigs were in the Gulf of Mexico. The job of an oil platform nurse is not a high-demand occupation with so few rigs working. Although the average annual salary for an RN in 2012 was $67,930, according to the BLS, the Petroleum Industry Human Resources Committee reports an average annual salary of $70,000 to $100,000 for oil platform nurses.
2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.