Space Nursing

Try to reflect and look back into the history of nursing. Look farther into the past when human began to exist. Was there not nursing in the midst of a blossoming civilization? Wherever people have lived, worked and basically existed, there nursing was. I believe that space is not an exception to this.

Expert nurses who have been fully trained have applied to join the astronaut program yet no nurse had been selected yet to fly out there in space. There can be many reasons for this and one could be the fact that our education has too much diversity in multiple areas that dilute our focus on one single expertise. Despite this, we can always use our diverse knowledge in many aspects of life and apply nurse expertise in long-term care within confined areas. A manned mission to Mars for example in the near future can take around six months to three years, long enough for certain bodily changes to occur that may not only need medical attention but also nursing care.

Today, nurses are slowly recognized to have something to contribute to space exploration. Linda Plush who was the founding president of the Space Nursing Society said that as nurses help NASA with the down-to-earth matters of health care during space travel, NASA has the potential to take nurses to the stars, if they are willing to go. “Our profession has to open its eyes and see the future. It has to see space as a real thing, not as a science-fiction thing,” Linda Plush asserts.

According to Philip Robert Harris in his Living and Working in Space published in 1996, there are ten cultural characteristics of future space faring civilizations. These are sense of self in space; communication and language; dress and appearance; food and feeding habits; time and time consciousness; relationships and family; values and norms; beliefs, customs and traditions; mental processes and learning and work habits and practices. Space settlers will develop a distinct space culture suitable for its geography, microgravity, and extreme environment.  Hence, the space nurse will have to learn to adjust to this type of culture and apply her primary responsibility as a member of the health care team, concerned with the physical wellbeing and medical needs of the space travelers.

Who is this future space nurse? He or she can be you. If you believe that someday you can perform nursing procedures required in space flights and in an environment with microgravity or absence of gravity, then you can be this futuristic kind of nurse. Perhaps after you get a degree in nursing, enhance your skills in clinical practice and pursue Advanced Practice Nursing then your skills and knowledge can benefit the health care team during space missions. You should be an expert nurse able to perform emergency procedures in unexpected conditions and an excellent infection control nurse considering that contamination problems can be very hazardous in a closed-loop atmosphere.

Guided by the principle of Helicy, Space Nursing will be born from continuous innovations in the space program and the never-ending search for new dimensions as humans and a unique environment beyond Earth mutually interact. It will be called extraterrestrial nursing care because the type of nursing care that will be delivered is done beyond Earth and the patients are those who are space travelers, astronauts, and fellow professionals traveling/working/inhabiting in outer space interacting with various factors in a mysterious world of microgravity and conditions totally different from Earth. Are you able to imagine the future of nursing? Think about the next 20 years. What would nursing be like in outer space? Is your nursing education adequate enough to prepare you for space nursing?

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Freslyn Lim

About Freslyn Lim

I am currently a Registered Nurse by profession, a writer by passion, a nurse educator by essence and a word warrior by calling. I earned my Masters in Nursing major in Administration in March 2011 and had my clinical experience as Staff Nurse in the ICU, Pediatrics and NICU.

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