IamA Nurse who just spent 3 months aboard the world's largest civilian hospital ship... AMA!
I'm a 27 yo RN from Canada, and just returned from my 2nd tour volunteering aboard the M/V Africa Mercy in the West African country of Benin. The AFM as we call her is the largest ship of her kind outside of military hospital vessels, and is operated by Mercy Ships, an international NGO focused on providing free, safe, high quality healthcare to some of the poorest countries in the world. All of the 400+ volunteers from around the world are paying their own way to be there.
During this past field service in Benin, over 1700 patients received surgery on board, 1800 local professionals received training and mentoring, and over 6000 dental patients were seen.
My job on the patient wards involved prepping our patients for surgery (including a lot of teaching about how things will be done and what to expect), and caring for them after they've recovered from anaesthesia, until they're well enough to return home. I mainly worked with hernia and soft-tissue tumor patients, but my MVP's (most valued patients) were women we treated for Obstetric Fistula. This condition is relatively unheard of in western countries, but affects millions of women worldwide. Lengthy, obstructed labor often leads to a still birth, and on top of that chronic incontinence, which in turn leads to a cycle of shame, ostracism, and emotional pain. I've never met more brave, beautiful, and inspiring women than in my time working with fistula patients.
Ask me anything!
My Proof: http://i.imgur.com/1Wi6B7s.jpg
EDIT: Hey folks! Thanks for all the great questions!
I'm going to take a little break for lunch, and try to get some unpacking done. :/
I'll be back around 1PM EDT.
Edit 2: Forgot my disclaimer.
Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.
Edit 3: Thanks everyone for all the interest and fantastic questions!
I'll continue to answer questions if more come in, but before it gets too late I want to remind people about the Day to End Fistula tomorrow. Spread the word!
Also, keep an eye out on the NatGeo Channel for their documentary filmed last fall, The Surgery Ship. It's out in Australia, and some parts of Europe...no word yet on when it will air in North America.