December 16, 2015

Mercy Ships: Life in the Team House

international travel nursing on medical mission
pet bird in a cage aboard the Mercy Ships
Sammy, The Apartment Guard’s Pet

Most Mercy Ships crew live and work on the ship. However, I am one of the few that lives and works off the ship. There are about 15 of us who staff the 30-bed women’s clinic in town. We stay in what we call a “Team House,” which is basically an apartment complex. When I first got to the apartment, I couldn’t believe how nice it was. I really feel guilty living in such a nice apartment in such a poverty-stricken area.

The Team House is a very different type of living compared to ship life. First off, we have the luxury of untimed showers as well as cooking at our leisure. I also believe those of us living in the team house is a lot more immersed in the culture. We usually go to the ship a few times a week for meetings and activities. If the cars are being used, we have to find our own transportation. We frequently walk through town or take tuk tuks (small automatic taxi carts).

travel nurses journey to the park
A Trip to the Park with Clinic Staff

Since we are so separated from the ship community, we have developed our own little community at the team house. The team house girls are very close since we live and work together. Recently, we have had many nights of cooking, baking & watching Christmas movies. Living with 5 other girls reminds me of college dorm life; fun and occasionally challenging.

At work in the women’s clinic, Mercy Ships staff train local nurses and doctors. Since we don’t have the epidemic of fistulas due to childbirth trauma in the U.S., it’s kind of strange teaching other nurses about something you’re still learning about as well. The plan is that the local medical staff will be fully independent by the time the African Mercy leaves, and they can keep the women’s clinic up and running. I never knew how much Mercy Ships did until I got here. They are so much more than a floating hospital. They will continue to make such a great impact on the community with this permanent women’s clinic in place!

In May 2014, Travel Nurse Across America (TNAA) announced a partnership with Mercy Ships, as part of its ongoing philanthropic activities. TNAA sponsored four nurses to volunteer on a healthcare delivery mission in Africa. Mercy Ships, a global charity organization, uses ships – floating hospitals – to provide free surgery and dental care in impoverished countries. Mercy Ships has been in operation since 1978. The nurses sponsored by TNAA worked for eight weeks each on the African mercy ship docked in Cotonou, Benin. Follow the TNAA blog for Mercy Ships updates.