For Maria Kuo, an interest in Mercy Ships and the free surgical care it offers has always been a part of her life. At the age of nine, her parents took her to a Mercy Ships tour in Gisbon, New Zealand, where she learned about the urgent need for direct surgical care and medical resources in sub-Saharan Africa. Maria decided right then and there, to become a part of Mercy Ships’ greater mission.
“I’ve always had a huge passion for Mercy Ships. I love being a nurse, and I really love being able to use my skills as a nurse to be able to serve the people on Mercy Ships,” Maria expressed enthusiastically about the Global Mercy. “The ship is equipped for the surgeries, the recovery, and you can really have an input in these patients’ lives. They’ve had problems for such a long time, and then you can come and fix them with sometimes quite a simple surgery to change their whole lives.”
“When I first came on the ship as a single nurse,” Maria recounted her first year as a 24-year old young professional on board, “I loved to see all the families on the ship. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do with my family one day.’” Now, as Ward Clinical Supervisor, she has brought her husband and three children on board to help her fulfil that calling. Her children are aged nine, eight, and six, Maria and her husband decided that this is a good age for them to come and live on board for the next two years.
Mercy Ships was built with its patients’ journeys in mind – from a procedure in one of our eight surgical specialties to rehabilitation and recovery. Part of that journey is ensuring that the healthcare professionals who care for the patients are taken care of in turn. “I love the fact that we live in a community. I love that the children can grow up in a community,” remarked Maria, pointing out some of the ways that the Global Mercy is not just a ship, but a second home. “My kids are very adaptable children, so they were excited from the start. There’s a really good schooling system here, so the kids are doing well in their school.” Almost incredulously, she also admits another load off her mind: “I don’t have to cook dinner for two years.”
Knowing that her family is provided for, Maria is able to focus on her role as Ward Clinical Supervisor. “I love being able to see the overflow of the hospitals to just see the patient flow and the nurses’ flow, being able to put nurses in areas that they’re really going to excel in, help with the nitty-gritty stuff of the wards running,” she listed her responsibilities in tandem with what she loved about her job. “But, also, I still get to spend time on the wards and get to know the patients, get to know the crew. I get the best of both worlds.”
Maria has seen both sides of the experience, as a growing professional nurse and as a mother. She is enthusiastic to show how it’s not as crazy as some might think, and how the experience is worth adapting what you are used to for ship-life. “The reward that you get from seeing the change in these patients is amazing,” Maria says. “The patients are grateful for the care that they get, so you get that satisfaction, but you’re also working in a community of international nurses. You get to see how things happen all over the world instead of just comparing that to your own country.”
Mercy Ships is always looking for volunteer professionals to serve on board our vessels, including those like Maria with managerial experience in the medical field. We are looking for team managers, ward managers, maxillofacial managers, and general plastics managers. People like Maria are the leadership behind the nurses, trusting that their experience can guide the process that will bring free professional surgical care to the maximum number of patients.
If you are willing to take a leap of faith, utilising your experience and make a lasting impact in patients’ lives, we are excited to see you. Find your place on board today.