Our Human Expedition: Stories of Courage in Uncertainty


May 14, 2020

Our Human Expedition cover grid

As we navigate the challenges and surprises of daily life in a pandemic, we're grateful and inspired by the many NOLSies who are serving those in need during this time.

We are committed to highlighting these NOLSies in our ongoing series, Our Human Expedition.

Follow along on Instagram or Facebook to see new posts every week, and find inspiration in our first few stories here:

(If you are a NOLS alum or instructor working in any capacity to support those affected physically or psychologically by COVID-19, please reach out to us at blog@nols.edu—we'd love to hear from you.)

Sara Nelson

View this post on Instagram

"In a NOLS expedition, there will be a moment when a leader needs to step forward and direct their team. There will need to be good, clear, closed-loop communication. The situation may be dangerous or unfamiliar (think of a challenging river crossing or climbing up a pass with an impending storm in the distance). So the leadership, teamwork, and communication must be clear. I have felt this way during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am a NOLS Wilderness Medicine instructor and an emergency medicine physician working at Maine Medical Center, the level 1 trauma center, and the teaching hospital for the state of Maine. We have created a COVID-19 unit within the emergency department. Here where we evaluate, resuscitate, manage, and treat patients with suspected coronavirus. Anyone could be carrying COVID-19, so you must be constantly vigilant. We can no longer rush into a patient's room and just start caring for them. As providers, we needed to first take a deep breath and don our PPE before rushing to the bedside. I change out of my scrubs at work, change into clean scrubs for the ride home, shower immediately, and then hug my toddler daughter. She now knows that mama is dirty when I get back from work. While I continue to work in the emergency department, the environment has changed (personal protective equipment, scarcity of some supplies, new disease, changing information protocols, lots of unknowns), so daily leadership, teamwork, and communication are more critical than ever. Resuscitating a critically ill patient is hard -- doing so in a full PAPR hood that is blowing air past your ears while wearing gowns and gloves and boots, and while managing a disease that you don't completely understand is is even more challenging. Please continue to head the recommendations for social distancing and staying at home -- these measures are working. Remember, the virus is now circulating in your community. Until we have ample testing capabilities, good public health systems in place to contact trace, and, eventually, a vaccine, we will need to continue with some form of social distancing to keep the numbers of COVID-19 patients low." - Sara Nelson, MD

A post shared by NOLS (@nolsedu) on

Alex Chae

Avilash Cramer

Jon Lowrance

Kelly Sloan

Sarah Schewel

Elise Dunn

Dan Sherman

Written By


NOLS is a nonprofit global wilderness school that seeks to help you step forward boldly as a leader.

Up Next

Astronaut Reid Wiseman on Expedition Behavior

On April 3, 2023, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced the four astronauts who will venture around the Moon on Artemis II. Mission Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover, Mission Specialist Christina Hammock Koch, and Mission Specialist Jeremy Hansen will lead the first crewed mission on NASA’s path to establishing a long-term presence at the Moon - and - all four are NOLS graduates.

Read More