An NFL nurse performing a cardiology test on an athlete

Learning how to become an NFL nurse combines your passion for sports with your dedication to healthcare. If you’re interested in how to become an NFL nurse, this guide will walk you through the necessary steps, qualifications, and benefits of this rewarding profession.

What Does an NFL Nurse Do?

An NFL nurse specializes in the healthcare needs of professional football players, distinguishing them from regular nurses through a unique set of responsibilities and expertise.

Specialized Medical Care

  • Injury Prevention and Management: Develops and implements injury prevention programs and manages sports-related injuries.
    • Example: Designs pre-season conditioning programs to reduce hamstring strains.
  • Immediate and Emergency Care: Provides on-site medical attention during practices and games.
    • Example: Performs neurological assessments for concussions.

Rehabilitation Support

  • Post-Injury Rehabilitation: Works with physical therapists to monitor and adjust rehabilitation programs.
    • Example: Oversees ACL tear recovery, ensuring safe progress.

Health Monitoring and Maintenance

  • Routine Health Assessments: Conducts regular health check-ups and manages chronic conditions.
    • Example: Manages blood pressure for players with hypertension.

Collaboration with Medical Team

  • Multidisciplinary Coordination: Coordinates care with physicians, surgeons, and trainers.
    • Example: Develop post-operative care plans with surgeons and physical therapists.

Health Education and Advocacy

  • Player Education: Educates players on nutrition, injury prevention, and mental health.
    • Example: Hold workshops on balanced diets for energy and recovery.

Travel and Logistics

  • Team Travel Support: Travels with the team, managing medical needs and coordinating with local healthcare.
    • Example: Prepares medical kits and emergency contacts for away games.

Distinguishing NFL Nurses from Regular Nurses

  • Specialized Knowledge and Skills: Expertise in sports medicine and athletic care.
  • Intensive Training: Focused on orthopedic nursing, emergency care, and sports rehabilitation.
  • High-Stress Environment: Handles medical emergencies under pressure.
  • Unique Patient Population: Caters exclusively to elite athletes.


  • Game Day Preparation: Ensures medical equipment is ready for quick response.
  • Custom Rehabilitation Plans: Tailors programs for football-specific demands.

An NFL nurse’s role is multifaceted and highly specialized. It requires advanced medical knowledge, quick decision-making, and a deep understanding of sports medicine, setting it apart from traditional nursing roles.

Steps to Become an NFL Nurse

1. Obtain a Nursing Degree

An NFL nurse smiling and looking at the camera The first step in becoming an NFL nurse is obtaining a nursing degree. This degree lays the foundation for your nursing career and future specialization in sports medicine.

Types of Nursing Degrees

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): Typically a 2-year program offered at community colleges. It covers essential nursing skills and clinical practices.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A 4-year program offered at universities and colleges. It provides a broader and more in-depth education in nursing.

Benefits of a BSN

  • Comprehensive Training: BSN programs offer more extensive clinical experiences and exposure to various healthcare settings.
    • Example: BSN students might participate in clinical rotations in emergency departments, pediatric units, and community health centers.
  • Career Advancement: Employers often prefer a BSN, which can lead to higher-paying positions and leadership roles.

Accreditation and Licensing

Clinical Experience

  • Hands-On Training: ADN and BSN programs include clinical hours where students gain hands-on experience in real healthcare settings.

Additional Coursework for Sports Medicine

  • Elective Courses: If available, choose elective courses in sports medicine, kinesiology, or exercise physiology to build a foundation in athletic healthcare.

Online and Accelerated Programs

  • Flexibility: For those with prior degrees or healthcare experience, online and accelerated BSN programs offer flexibility and can be completed in a shorter time frame. Accelerated BSN programs can be completed in 12-18 months for non-nursing bachelor’s degree students.

Financial Considerations

  • Scholarships and Grants: Explore financial aid options for nursing students, such as scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs.

Obtaining a nursing degree is a critical step toward becoming an NFL nurse, providing the essential knowledge, skills, and credentials needed to embark on this specialized and rewarding career path.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

After obtaining a nursing degree, the next crucial step in learning how to become an NFL nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This exam is essential for obtaining your nursing license and practicing as a registered nurse.

Purpose of the NCLEX-RN

  • Licensure Requirement: The NCLEX-RN is a standardized exam that ensures candidates have the necessary knowledge and skills to practice nursing safely and effectively. All state nursing boards require passing the NCLEX-RN to issue a license to practice as a registered nurse.

Exam Structure

  • Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT): The NCLEX-RN uses CAT, which adjusts the difficulty of questions based on your performance.
  • Question Types: The exam includes multiple-choice, select-all-that-apply, fill-in-the-blank, and hot spot questions.
    • Example: You might be asked to identify parts of a diagram, prioritize nursing actions, or select appropriate interventions for a given scenario.

Content Areas

  • Four Major Categories: The exam covers four major categories, each focusing on different aspects of nursing practice.
    • Safe and Effective Care Environment: Questions about patient safety, infection control, and healthcare management.
    • Health Promotion and Maintenance: Topics include growth and development, prevention, and early detection of health problems.
    • Psychosocial Integrity: Questions related to mental health, coping mechanisms, and support systems.
    • Physiological Integrity: Focuses on providing care and comfort, reducing risk potential, and managing health alterations.

Preparation Strategies

  • Review Courses: Enroll in NCLEX review courses offered by various institutions and online platforms to reinforce your knowledge.
    • Example: Kaplan, Hurst Review, and UWorld offer comprehensive review courses and practice exams.
  • Study Materials: Utilize study guides, textbooks, and online resources specifically designed for NCLEX preparation.
    • Example: Books like Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-RN Exam Cram provide detailed content reviews and practice questions.
  • Practice Exams: Take multiple practice exams to familiarize yourself with the exam format and identify areas where you need improvement. Practice exams help build test-taking skills and reduce anxiety by simulating the actual exam environment.

Test-Taking Tips

  • Time Management: Develop strategies to manage your time effectively during the exam, ensuring you can answer all questions within the allotted time. Allocate a specific amount of time per question and move on if you are unsure, returning to challenging questions if time permits.
  • Critical Thinking: Focus on developing critical thinking skills, as the NCLEX-RN emphasizes applying knowledge rather than rote memorization. Practice questions that require you to analyze scenarios and make clinical judgments based on nursing principles.

Exam Logistics

  • Registration: Register for the NCLEX-RN through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and your state nursing board. Complete the application, pay the exam fee, and schedule your test date at a Pearson VUE testing center.
  • Exam Day: On the day of the exam, bring a valid ID and arrive early at the testing center. Follow all security and testing protocols.

Passing and Retaking

  • Passing Score: The NCLEX-RN does not have a fixed passing score; instead, you must demonstrate competence in all tested areas. The exam continues until it determines with 95% confidence that your ability is above or below the passing standard.
  • Retake Policy: If you do not pass the exam, you can retake it after a mandatory waiting period, typically 45 days. Use the feedback from your initial attempt to focus on areas needing improvement before retaking the exam.

Passing the NCLEX-RN exam is a critical milestone in your journey to becoming an NFL nurse. It validates your nursing education and skills, allowing you to obtain your nursing license and move closer to your goal of working in the exciting field of professional sports healthcare.

3. Gain Experience in Sports Medicine

An NFL nurse evaluating a sore knee Gaining experience in sports medicine is a crucial step towards learning how to become an NFL nurse. This specialized field requires a deep understanding of athletic injuries, rehabilitation, and overall athlete health Relevant Work Settings

  • Orthopedic Clinics: Work in clinics that specialize in musculoskeletal issues to gain experience with sports-related injuries, such as sprains, fractures, and joint injuries common among athletes.
  • Rehabilitation Centers: Assist in the rehabilitation of injured athletes, helping them regain strength and mobility.
  • Athletic Training Facilities: Collaborate with athletic trainers to learn about injury prevention, treatment, and recovery techniques.

Hands-On Experience

  • Shadowing Professionals: Shadow sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers to observe and learn. Observe surgeries, rehabilitation sessions, and on-field injury assessments.
  • Internships and Volunteer Work: Seek internships or volunteer opportunities in sports medicine departments or with local sports teams.

Specialized Training and Certifications

  • Sports Medicine Certification: Obtain certifications to demonstrate your expertise in sports-related healthcare.
  • Continuing Education: Attend workshops, seminars, and courses focused on sports medicine and athletic care.

Developing Key Skills

  • Injury Assessment and Diagnosis: Learn to assess and diagnose common sports injuries quickly and accurately. Recognize symptoms of concussions, fractures, and ligament tears.
  • Emergency Care: Gain proficiency in providing immediate care during sports events, such as CPR, first aid, and the use of emergency equipment like AEDs.
  • Rehabilitation Techniques: Master various rehabilitation techniques to help athletes recover efficiently. Understand manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and the use of modalities like ultrasound and electrical stimulation.

Case Studies and Research

  • Conduct Research: Engage in research projects related to sports medicine to contribute to the field and enhance your knowledge.
    • Example: Studying the effectiveness of different rehabilitation protocols for common football injuries.
  • Publish Case Studies: Write and publish case studies on your experiences with athlete care to establish yourself as an expert.

Gaining experience in sports medicine equips you with the specialized skills and knowledge necessary to excel as an NFL nurse. This experience enhances your expertise and makes you a valuable asset to any professional sports team, paving the way for a successful and rewarding career in the field.

4. Pursue Specialized Certifications

Pursuing specialized certifications is an essential step in learning how to become an NFL nurse, as these credentials demonstrate your expertise and dedication to the field of sports medicine and athletic care. Here’s a detailed look at the certifications that can enhance your qualifications and career prospects.

Certified Orthopedic Nurse (ONC)

The ONC certification indicates advanced knowledge and skills in orthopedic nursing, which is crucial for managing sports-related injuries.

Requires a current RN license, two years of nursing experience, and at least 1,000 hours of orthopedic nursing practice. Exam Covers topics such as musculoskeletal disorders, treatment modalities, and patient education.

  • Example: Preparing for and passing the ONC exam demonstrates your competence in handling bone, joint, and muscle injuries.

Certified Sports Medicine Registered Nurse (SMRN)

This certification focuses on the unique needs of athletes and the prevention, assessment, and management of sports injuries.

Requires an active RN license and specific coursework or experience in sports medicine. Exam Tests knowledge in areas such as exercise physiology, sports nutrition, and injury prevention.

  • Example: Earning the SMRN certification shows you understand the intricacies of athletic healthcare and can effectively contribute to a sports medical team.

Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)

ACLS certification is vital for nurses who may need to respond to cardiovascular emergencies, which are critical in high-intensity sports settings. Requirements Completion of an ACLS course and passing the exam. Training Includes advanced cardiac life support skills, emergency protocols, and teamwork strategies.

  • Example: ACLS certification ensures you are prepared to handle on-field cardiac emergencies during games and practices.

Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN)

The CRRN certification demonstrates expertise in rehabilitation nursing, which is essential for helping athletes recover from injuries.

Requires an active RN license and two years of rehabilitation nursing experience. Exam Focuses on rehabilitation strategies, patient care, and interdisciplinary team collaboration.

  • Example: As a CRRN, you can design and implement effective rehabilitation programs tailored to athletes’ needs.

Pursuing specialized certifications is a strategic move to solidify your expertise and stand out in the competitive field of sports medicine. These credentials not only enhance your knowledge and skills but also significantly improve your career prospects as an NFL nurse, positioning you as a valuable asset to any professional sports team.

5. Network within the Industry

People talking to each other during a networking event Networking within the sports medicine and NFL communities is a critical step in learning how to become an NFL nurse. Building professional relationships can open doors to job opportunities, provide mentorship, and keep you updated on industry trends.

Join Professional Organizations

  • National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA): Membership provides access to industry resources, conferences, and a network of professionals.
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): Offers certifications, continuing education, and networking opportunities.
  • National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON): Focuses on orthopedic nursing, providing specialized knowledge relevant to sports injuries.

Attend Industry Conferences and Workshops

  • Networking Events: Conferences and workshops are prime venues for meeting professionals in the sports medicine field.
  • Workshops and Seminars: These events offer hands-on learning and direct interaction with experts.

Utilize Alumni Networks

  • University Alumni Associations: Leverage your alma mater’s alumni network to connect with professionals in the sports medicine field. Atten alumni events and use the alumni directory to reach out to graduates working in sports medicine.

Networking within the industry is essential for becoming an NFL nurse. By joining professional organizations, attending events, engaging online, seeking mentorship, volunteering, conducting research, building relationships, and utilizing alumni networks, you can build a robust professional network. 

6. Apply for NFL Nurse Positions

After building your qualifications, gaining experience, and networking within the industry, the final step in learning how to become an NFL nurse is to apply for positions with professional football teams. This process requires a strategic approach to ensure you stand out among other candidates and secure your desired role.

Research Potential Employers

  • NFL Teams: Focus on the 32 NFL teams, each of which typically has a dedicated medical staff, including nurses. Investigate the healthcare structures and medical teams of teams like the New England Patriots or the Dallas Cowboys to understand their specific needs and requirements.
  • Collegiate and Other Professional Leagues: Consider starting with collegiate athletic programs or other professional leagues to gain relevant experience. Working with a Division I college football team or a team from the Canadian Football League (CFL) can be a valuable stepping stone.

Prepare a Strong Application

  • Tailored Resume: Customize your resume to highlight relevant experience, certifications, and skills specific to sports medicine and athletic care.
    • Example: Emphasize your ONC or SMRN certification, your experience with athletic teams, and any specialized training in sports injury management.
  • Compelling Cover Letter: Write a cover letter that showcases your passion for sports medicine, your understanding of the team’s culture, and how your expertise aligns with their needs.
    • Example: Mention specific programs or strategies you have implemented that reduced injury rates or improved recovery times for athletes.

Utilize Valuable Job Resources

  • Jobs in Sports: Leverage Jobs in Sports (, a leading job board for sports-related careers, to find openings for NFL nurse positions. Create a profile on Jobs in Sports, set up job alerts, and apply directly to listings for NFL medical staff positions. 

Follow Up

  • Thank You Notes: Send personalized thank you notes to interviewers, reiterating your enthusiasm for the position and how your skills align with the team’s needs. Mention specific points discussed during the interview that highlight your fit for the role and express your appreciation for the opportunity to interview.

By utilizing resources like Jobs in Sports and leveraging your professional network, you can increase your chances of securing a position in this exciting and specialized field.

How Much Does an NFL Nurse Make?

A smiling nurse holding a piggy bank The salary of an NFL nurse can vary significantly based on factors such as experience, qualifications, the specific team, and the location. Here’s an in-depth look at the potential earnings and benefits of learning how to become an NFL nurse.

Average Salary Range

  • Base Salary: The average NFL nurse salary is $84,575 annually. Entry-level positions may start around $70,000, while more experienced nurses or those with specialized certifications can earn upwards of $100,000.
  • Experience Factor: Nurses with extensive experience in sports medicine or those who have worked with professional athletes may command higher salaries. An NFL nurse with 10 years of experience in sports medicine and certifications such as ONC or SMRN might earn closer to $110,000.

Additional Compensation

  • Bonuses and Incentives: NFL nurses may receive performance-based bonuses, especially if their work contributes to the team’s success.
    • Example: End-of-season bonuses for effective injury management and rehabilitation of key players.
  • Travel Stipends: Given the travel requirements, NFL nurses often receive travel stipends or allowances.

Comprehensive Benefits

  • Health Insurance: NFL teams typically offer comprehensive health insurance packages, including medical, dental, and vision coverage.
  • Retirement Plans: Many teams provide retirement benefits, such as 401(k) plans with matching contributions.

An NFL nurse can expect a competitive salary and comprehensive benefits, reflecting the specialized nature of the role and the critical contribution to the team’s success.

Find an NFL Nurse Career Today

Learning how to become an NFL nurse is a rewarding and exciting career path that combines a passion for healthcare with the thrill of professional sports. By obtaining a nursing degree, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, gaining experience in sports medicine, pursuing specialized certifications, networking within the industry, and applying for positions, you can position yourself for success in this unique field. One of the most effective ways to find NFL nurse positions and advance your career in sports medicine is through dedicated job resources. We highly recommend creating a membership with Jobs in Sports, a leading job board for sports-related careers. By becoming a member, you gain access to exclusive job listings, career advice, and networking opportunities that can help you secure your dream job in the NFL.