Case for Nurses as Key Contributors to Mars Exploration Teams
Mary Ellen Symanski, Ph.D., RN, Associate Professor of Nursing, University of Maine, Orono, ME
One group of people who may be overlooked as valuable contributors to Mars exploration missions are nurses. It is my contention that they would be valuable members of Mars exploration teams not only to care for injured team members, but to offer assistance to others in coping with physical and mental challenges in the environment. Zubrin contends that the engineer is the most valuable member of the Mars exploration team due to his or her ability to understand and repair sophisticated equipment. Nurses can “fix” many people problems in non-pretentious and practical ways similar to the manner in which engineers work out problems with equipment. Nurses are broadly educated yet practically trained; they are natural multi-taskers accustomed to working in stressful environments. Nursing education also emphasizes the positive aspects of human beings. Characteristics of nurses that would be valuable on a Mars expedition include: flexibility, able to handle medical emergencies, able to respond to psychological emergencies, able to deal with sticky people issues, able to improvise supplies in whatever setting they find themselves. Nurse practitioners, who have additional clinical education, are trained to handle basic health problems, and are used in health practices as “physician extenders”. It is my contention that the human cargo going up to space is very valuable and as complex as the sophisticated equipment. Ingrained in the traditions of the nursing profession are the values of helping others and promoting well being and health. Nurses are “doers” as well as thinkers and problem solvers, and would readily pitch in with whatever other tasks need to be done. I believe that the contributions of a nurse on a Mars expedition would be worth his or her weight many times over.