No nurse has ever been beyond Earth yet. However, this does not mean that nurses have insignificant role to play in space missions. Nurses can function greatly in monitoring the health of astronauts not only on Earth’s ground but time will come when nurses’ critical thinking abilities, outstanding clinical expertise, excellent contribution to research and holistic caring skills will be in demand outside this planet. It was in 1962 that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the Space Nursing Program which required applicants to have a previous bachelor’s degree in nursing. That’s basically 4 years after the birth of NASA. A lot of developments in aerospace medical field have occurred after that.
The development of aerospace nursing is significant in the growth of the expanded view in nursing practice. This advance nursing field basically includes all aspects of health and all environmental hazards that can alter health which is pretty much challenging and will probably be in great demand 20-50 years from now. Aerospace nursing consists of a holistic approach and reflects genuine concern for the health needs of the Air Force community, the aeronautics professionals and involves preparing individuals and their family for space exploration. The primary focus of the aerospace nursing program is to prepare nurses to become a significant teamplayer in the medical aerospace group who will support resources planning, bioastronautics, occupational health and aerospace medical research development.
The need for varied expertise in the fields of psychiatric nursing, oncology nursing, perioperative/surgical nursing, OB/GYN nursing, emergency nursing, and occupational health nursing will be in great demand someday. It is important that nurses today must gain significant amount of clinical experience and expertise in these different areas. A nurse who is an expert in majority if not all these varied clinical areas, will be greatly valuable in any future space mission beyond Earth. It is also an edge for nurses to have academic achievements in masters and doctorate programs with valuable research that can contribute to the body of knowledge and foundation theory of extraterrestrial nursing.
Training requirements may vary but generally aerospace nursing requires completion of an accredited nursing Bachelor’s degree and training in flight nursing program. Those who are interested may acquire certification trainings in basic, cardiac, and pediatric advanced life support. They must have substantial experience in critical care, emergency, disaster and trauma care and must ideally have passed the Certified Flight Registered Nurse Examination.
Are you interested in specializing on aerospace nursing? Get into courses, training opportunities or education and research programs at NASA centers such as Kennedy Space Center (Florida), Johnson Space Center (Texas), Langley Research Center (Virginia), Ames Research Center (California), Dryden Flight Research Center (California), and others. There is actually an Aerospace Medicine Research Rotation offered monthly at Wyle Labs (Houston, Texas) under the supervision of a physician mentor. Once the rotation is done, the research project will be presented to the JSC Space Medicine Community. Graduate level nursing students with an interest in Aerospace Medicine can apply for this training.