Dr. Martha Rogers’ Influence: Founding of
Space Nursing Society
By KATIE CORBETT, BS, MAC
For many years the thoughts and studies of Dr. Martha Rogers spearheaded the creation of a new theory of nursing that has transcended the boundaries and limitations of Earth into Space.
Linda Plush, founder of the Space Nursing Society, initially discovered the Rogerian theory during a graduate class in 1989 when she was asked to make a presentation to the class. The results of this seemingly-simple class assignment have been far-reaching: Rogers’ concepts helped to support Plush’s idea for a society dedicated to the role of the nurse in space and the founding of SNS in 1991.
To Plush’s surprise, her interest in Rogerian theory prompted two invitations to attend the first biennial convention of the Society of Rogerian Scholars in Pigeon Force, Tenn., and to the Nursing in Space Conference at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, Ala. In Huntsville, she met Rogers for the first time and discussed what space exploration might require of nurses in the future.
Rogers told Plush, “For Space we need not think every change is a disease or pathological. For example, it’s not pathological to loose calcium in space, it is normal in that altered environment.”
She said that she believed humans would evolve and change body change and that space spin-offs will affect the Earth instead of the other way around. She suggested to Plush establishing a doctorate in space and perhaps an international space university for space nursing.
Plush’s next meeting with Rogers was at the convention of the Society of Rogerian Scholars in June 1990. She was invited to dinner at Rogers’ cottage and to become a founding scholar of the Society of Rogerian Scholars, a group that is committed to fostering the development of the Science of Unitary Human Beings.
At the same convention Plush has the opportunity to talk with Dr. Elizabeth Barrett about many issues concerning space environments. Barrett cited Plush in her article “Space Nursing” in CUTIS in October 1991.
In the article Barrett explained Rogers’ theory of nursing, the Science of Unitary Human Beings, as a frame of reference unique to the discipline of nursing and potential for providing a unique understanding of life and health in space.
According to Rogers, nursing as a prescience has most often been understood as a verb meaning “to do.” However, when nursing is perceived as a science, it becomes a noun signifying a body of knowledge and meaning “to know.” Nursing’s phenomenon of concern is unitary, irreducible human beings and their environments.
Barrett describes the theory. “We live in two worlds. We are most familiar with ordinary, every day three-dimensional visible one. Yet the true world is a pandimensional reality in which space and time cannot be separated. This reality is usually experienced as in a timeless moment. In the three-dimensional world time is manifest in what appear to be a linear time line of past, present and future. In the pandimensional world, past, present and future are encompassed in the eternal now or relative present.
During a regional meeting of the Society of Rogerian Scholars in 1990, Plush again had the opportunity to continue her dialog with Rogers, which was the keynote speaker at the meeting. She was very supportive of forming an Aerospace Nursing Organization, the first name given to SNS.
During 1990-1991 Plush explored many alternatives in deciding what do about her idea. She sent out letters of inquiry about space medicine to numerous universities and government agencies and considered joining the US Space Foundation and the National Space Society, which were both too broad to serve the interests of space nurses.
Finally in 1992, the decision was made to formally organize the Space Nursing Society by filing incorporation papers and forming a Board of Directors. However, it was decided to designate 1991 as the founding date since members had been talking informally since that date.
At the invitation of Plush, Rogers agreed on July 17, 1992, to serve as the first honorary board member of the organization.
Plush, who was appointed executive director of the Society in 1996, wrote about the meaning of the Society in a letter to Canadian nurses with collaboration from Dr. Judith Lapierine. In 1997 Lapierine was named recipient of a French Canadian Embassy award, allowing her to study ISN in the Anartica.
“The Society was created with the goal of promoting the role of nurses in the planning and providing of health care to persons living and working in space. At the dawn of new millennium, we are more than ever witnesses to the irrevocable evolution of mankind unceasingly pushing back the limits of our environment. The nursing profession has been, is and will remain close to individuals who have health experiences wherever they find themselves.”
In her book, An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing, Rogers said, “The science of nursing must be made explicit in research, education and practice. Responsible leadership must emerge and take on the great task of evolving health services with a world in rapid transition and committed to humanitarian goals. There is no going back. New horizons call.”
Those new horizons, she said, involve space exploration and environments that stretch beyond imagination. The Society received her highest praise and expectation of achieving these goals for Mankind.
Rogers was a strong advocate of rebuilding nursing education programs by replacing the hospital training with university studies. Her early nursing training was at the Knoxville General Hospital of Nursing in Tennessee in 1936. Later she earned a master’s degree in nursing from Teachers College of Columbia University and a master’s in public health and a doctor’s in science from John Hopkins University.
For 20 years she served as the director of the School of Nursing at New York University where she helped establish nursing as a separate profession. Among her other accomplishments were establishing the first visiting nurse service in Arizona and writing several books which have become standard texts for advanced nursing students.
Ten days before she died Mach 13, 1994, Rogers told a friend, “There is no such thing as death or dying. It is purely an evolutionary emergence – and it’s all an energy field pattern.”
“Now she belongs to the Ages,” was the fitting epitaph used as the closing words at her funeral.