December 12, 2014

Mercy Ships: Life on the Ship

international travel nursing on medical mission

12/8/2014 –

I’ve been thinking I should write about what life is like on the ship since I haven’t said much yet about day-to-day stuff. First of all, I sleep in a room with six other women. Some are on the ship long-term, for the whole 10 months of service, while others are here as short as two weeks. We sleep two to an area that is the size of an average laundry room in a house. Each area has bunk beds, a desk, four shelves, and one closet with two sides that are 20 inches wide. Our luggage and laundry are stored under the bottom bunk (mine).

We have one shower and toilet to share. I often go down the hall to use a communal bathroom to avoid waking others when I have to be ready early in the morning. Most of us lay out our clothes the night before so we can dress in very minimal light so we don’t disturb each other.

Meals are at set times. Breakfast is from 6-7:30 a.m. and consists of hard-boiled eggs, plain yogurt, dry cereals, hot cereal, and bread. There is always peanut butter and jelly, Nutella, mayonnaise (the Dutch put it on everything!), and lychee fruit or mango available. Tuesdays are “flapjack” days and they’re my favorite. They’re more crepe-like in texture and thickness than the pancakes we’re used to in the U.S., but it’s the treat I look forward to all week. Lunch is served from 12-1:30 p.m. and dinner from 4:45-6:30 p.m. If you miss mealtime, you miss a meal.

Since we have so many families aboard with children, we have a school on the ship. We have 15 full-time teachers for Pre-K through high school. The school is accredited, preparing students to leave the ship and attend college.

We have four full operating rooms and one eye surgery room for wards that each consist of 20 beds and a PACU. Since I’ve been here, I’ve only had one true ICU patient. Most would be considered step-down or med surg patients.

Alone time is hard to find on the ship. I’ve taken to getting up at 5:30 a.m. and going for a run or finding an empty conference room for some reading or writing. I enjoy using the weight room, but like all the spaces here, it’s a challenge with so many people wanting to use it at the same time. Most of us attend Sunday night devotionals even if we went to a local church earlier in the day. It’s a nice way to have fellowship and a good time to get centered.

I hope this gives a better idea of how I’m living during this time. The next time I write about “ship life,” I’ll share some of the jobs that others have on board. It really is quite interesting just who and what it takes to make this hospital work.

I have a class to teach tomorrow to some of our day crew workers so I will bid you all a good day (it’s 10 p.m. here)!

Lee 🙂

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.