During the springs and summers of 2009 to 2012, military and nongovernment organization nurses served side by side on hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy to offer free humanitarian clinical services to developing nations in Central and South America and Southeast Asia. Translators were engaged to facilitate communication on shore and off. Host nation patients came on board for prearranged surgery and then were returned to land within a few days for follow-up care with local clinicians. Nurses had opportunities to go onshore to assist in clinics, teach as subject matter experts, or participate in construction/remodeling projects. Weather and other environmental conditions influenced the availability and services of the ships, which could also be deployed to provide support for global disaster relief. Professional and personal preparedness and flexibility were essential for operational effectiveness. The authors, both critical care nurses, learned many lessons in teamwork, education, and life at sea. Readers are encouraged to consider the challenges, hard work, and vast rewards of hospital ship service.

You do not currently have access to this content.