How a Ward Nurse Found Connection
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Kevin’s story of volunteering on the world’s largest hospital ship

“I always tell people that this is the best hospital I’ve worked for,” Kevin So, ward nurse on the Global Mercy shared. “It’s a special place to serve here on Mercy Ships because everyone here wants to be here, you know? We’re all volunteers, so there’s a special energy and drive from everybody. Everyone is extremely humble, and very talented.”

From two years as a nurse in the Cardiothoracic ICU of a large academic hospital in California, to adult and pediatric emergency departments, and now to his third service with Mercy Ships, Kevin So is a clear career professional. On board the Global Mercy, the largest civilian hospital ship in the world, Kevin specializes in maxillofacial, plastic reconstructive, and orthopedic surgeries. His involvement with patients even extends past the procedure; he strives to be involved with their post-surgery recovery, wound care, nutrition monitoring, and healing and pain management.

Kevin and his wife recently volunteered together for three months during the organization’s visit to Senegal. “I try to bring hope and healing by getting to know my patients and getting to understand where they’re coming from. Not only do I learn a lot from them, but I try to share my passion.” Kevin elaborates on his approach, “I really try to connect with them, and I think that goes a long way when they feel like they’re heard and listened to.”

As he walks side-by-side with his patients during their healing process, Kevin feels like they aren’t the only ones changing for the better. “There’s so much growth. Not only as a nurse, but as a human and in your faith. I think it’s so powerful for me and my wife to be here, together…That’s been really special. We’ve been talking about this for four years since we’ve been married, and so, to be here, it’s been really amazing.” 

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“I’m humbled by their experience — coming here and putting their trust in us. It’s a long journey for them to even get to this point,” says Kevin about the patients who come to Mercy Ships to receive free surgical care on board. Often, they’ve been waiting for many months or years to receive care that is unaffordable, inaccessible, or unavailable in their home countries.

While Mercy Ships strives to meet surgical needs on an individual level, they also focus on making a bigger picture impact through surgical education, training, and advocacy work. All of this comes to life through the tireless efforts of an international crew of volunteer professionals like Kevin and several thousand others each year.

“It’s special to work with people from all over the world, and there’s just so much that you learn from different cultures. Like, how nursing is, but with a different perspective from different parts of the world. That’s why I really like it.”

Mercy Ships volunteers have countless opportunities to bring hope and healing to patients — every encounter has the potential to impact someone’s life. When recommending Mercy Ships to people who want to serve, but are still uncertain, Kevin shared: “I think it’s sometimes a tough decision to leave what you’re used to back home. It’s sometimes hard to organize your life in a way that you feel like you’re ready to come here, because it is a leap of faith in some ways. It’s not a normal trajectory in a career path, but it’s so meaningful because I think you learn so much more about different people and different parts of the world, their resources, and their culture.”

Kevin encourages prospective volunteers, inspiring them with the knowledge that: “Every time I’ve been here, you realize the right people are in the right place at the right time. I encourage you to take a leap of faith, even if you don’t know you’re ready. You have a skillset, and it can be put to use. I think it’s special when you put faith in that, and you take action to come here and see what God can do with your life.” Every action matters. We at Mercy Ships see the potential to heal that each volunteer carries, just as we see the potential to be healed in each patient.

The nature of those on board, patient and volunteer alike, is to ignite hope where it appears lost. Volunteers of all skill sets keep Mercy Ships’ legacy of over 114,000 life-changing surgeries growing every day. There are currently open opportunities for a variety of positions on board, from medical roles like Kevin’s to urgent needs across the entire ship. Find your place on board today.