Garden Valley, TX, May 12, 2014: Since the Africa Mercy arrived in Congo in August, 2013, more than 360 nurses have volunteered their critical expertise and caring skills onboard the 11,600-ton hospital ship. Operating room nurses assisted surgeons in more than 2,400 surgeries in the five state-of-the-art operating rooms during the ship’s 10-month stay in port. Ward nurses delivered excellent bedside care and plenty of hugs to patients recovering in the 82 ward beds. And every afternoon, nurses pulled wagons carrying giggling young patients around on the outside deck of the ship, where patients got some daily exercise and fresh air.

As the world acknowledges International Nurse’s Day, Mercy Ships recognizes this profession’s critical contribution to delivering life-changing and lifesaving healthcare to thousands of patients annually onboard the Africa Mercy. The world’s largest charity hospital ship would not be able to deliver healthcare services without its crew of exemplary volunteer nurses.

Nurse Jenica Gammie who calls Fort Worth, TX, and Denver, CO, home, has found that besides building relationships with patients, she’s most enjoyed mentoring Congolese nurses who have worked alongside Mercy Ships nurses on the Africa Mercy. Twenty-three Congolese nurses were paired with Mercy Ship nurses in both operating rooms and wards to gain valuable experience during the ship’s stay in port. “That experience of getting to share knowledge, empower a local nurse, further her education, encourage her and be encouraged in return has been one of my favorite experiences,” Jenica exclaimed.

Volunteer nurse Bethany Salmonson, from Bemidji, MN, went into the nursing profession with the intent of doing overseas medical missions with her degree.  She spent five years gaining experience first to prepare for Mercy Ships.  Bethany finds great joy working on the Africa Mercy, “…I might not speak their local languages, but I can understand the smiles, the hugs, and the dancing as they receive the news that we are able to operate…. or when they see the healing afterwards,” she said.

Molly Gacetta, a nurse from Seattle, WA, resigned from her nursing job in Seattle to volunteer with Mercy Ships. “I felt called to Africa for much of my life, and really had a desire and passion to help people in Africa in some capacity,” said Molly. She worked on board with patients receiving plastic surgery, with the wound dressing team and with women who suffered obstetric fistulas. The fistulas were caused after an obstructed and prolonged labor and delivery, without having access to proper healthcare. These women delivered a stillborn child and became incontinent. Molly and the other nurses onboard cared lovingly for them as they were restored to physical and emotional health by a free operation to cure their fistulas.

Greenville, North Carolina, resident Scott Eldridge has been caring for patients in his nursing career for 32 years. He first heard about Mercy Ships on the radio in 2005. Scott just completed his second short-term stint on the ship.  Scott enjoys, “Being able to work with patients and experience patient care as it was initially designed…to take care of patients and spend time with them and their families.”

Nurses around the world remain a critical link to every nation’s provision of excellent healthcare. For more information about how to volunteer as a nurse with Mercy Ships during our next field service, contact