Mercy Ships needs volunteers to continue our global medical mission to help the poor. Whether you have previous experience in volunteer work or are looking to try something new, we have a position for you. No matter your skill level or speciality, there are plenty of opportunities available.

What is Mercy Ships? For over 40 years, Mercy Ships has had the sole goal of helping the poorest people get medical attention. With the combined efforts of international and domestic supporters, we are able to deploy our state-of-the-art hospital ships to some of the poorest communities and countries in the world. We provide free, life-saving surgeries and support local health care systems, to ensure long term local medical industry sustainability. As 50% of the world’s population lives on or near the coast, we literally have a highway to the most impoverished, allowing us to bring kindness and care to them, with our Mercy Ships.

Current opportunities for our volunteer staff range from long term or short term. To be eligible, you just need to be healthy and over 18 to volunteer. As you’ll be climbing about a ship with 30 flights of stairs multiple times a day, physical health is a must. Your safety is our priority. We do not serve in conflict zones but have and will assist areas that have been declared post-conflict. As political and cultural tenses rise and fall, we’ll be vigilant with our connections to local embassies and NGOs.

No matter the place, Mercy Ships is coming.


Finding A Role 

Every year we need hundreds of volunteers to staff Mercy Ships, in a variety of both medical and non-medical roles. A lot of these roles will require experience and qualifications and are perfect for people looking to make a real change in the world. No matter the role you choose, you’ll be joining a culturally diverse and multifaceted group, who are committed to this unique environment. You will make new and lifelong friends, grow your skillset and widen your worldview. The role you choose will define your experiences with Mercy Ships and leave a life-changing impact on you.

There are many types of roles. Nurses and Surgical Professionals are the core of our medical-surgical support and service backed up by a team of Hospital Support Services who ensure the hospital runs efficiently. They help keep the order and support our medical staff a hundred times a day in little ways. 

Other medical staff include Dental Professionals, who provide thousands of dental procedures each year and help bring smiles to our patients. Ophthalmic Professionals help restore sight or improve vision issues. Either way, it’s good to have them watching out for us. Allied Health professionals such as Physical Therapists and Occupational Health Therapists provide ongoing support to patients in recovery.

Our team is backed up with support from our Administrative Staff – no undertaking is possible without Admin Staff, they dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s and make sure everything is running smoothly. Logistic and Supply are two simple words to describe the monumental task of keeping a floating hospital stocked and staffed.
IT Professionals, ensuring that the computers and machines do their jobs is a hard and important task that is made even harder when the whole place is floating. Our kitchens are stocked with Galley Staff, who help feed our volunteers and our patients. To keep us going with heart and healthy meals is a tough job, luckily they are up to the task. Dining Room Staff, facilitating the serving of meals and meal arrangements for everyone. And our Hospitality Staff, are tasked with organising events and making certain that everyone feels welcome and shows their true spirit of hospitality.

To keep the hospital running afloat and keep Mercy Ships in top shape we have a team of engineers, mariner professionals and tradespeople.  Mercy Ships is still a ship and requires a team behind it to keep it ship-shape.

A core objective for Mercy Ships is to leave behind a legacy of locally trained staff and medical professionals.  Our Trainers help build medical capacity in local communities so that the work continues long after Mercy Ships has moved ports.

Our Management Team ensures that everyone is where they need to be and are supported to help our patients.  This includes our Finance Teams, IT Professionals to keep our computer and medical equipment in top shape, Chaplaincy for ongoing emotional support and Educators so that children on the ship can attend classes.  To help tell the Mercy Ships story to the world, we have creative professionals such as Photographers, Videographers and Writers.

Our Volunteer Program has many roles that might be the perfect fit just for you. A wide variety of skill sets and experience levels from many industries come together to make this Ship work. And it would be impossible to do this without the commitment of our volunteer team.


Application Process

The application process is fairly straightforward.

  1. Find a role that you are passionate about. Start your application, which will be specific to the role you are applying for. But you’ll need your current CV and copies of your licences, certificates, and qualifications. 
  2. Review. We will then review your application and documents, and probably get in touch with you to get more information or occasionally to get a few missing docs. Next, we may arrange a video interview, via Spark Hire as some positions require “in-person” interviews with our Human Resources team. This process is really to ensure that you’ll fit in with the team and that you have a complete understanding of the role and what your service will look like. 
  3. Waiting. Sometimes the position you are seeking isn’t available at that moment. Your application will go into our Talent Community, and you’ll be notified when the position is open again. We strive to keep you informed on all the changes and opportunities aboard our ships, as well as news regarding events and updates in regard to our ongoing operations. We’ll try to give you an estimation of the wait times so that you’ll be ready to go when we give you the call. 
  4. Offer Letter. Once the role you are hoping for becomes available, and you are free to accept, we’ll get our team to sort out any loose ends and send your Offer Letter. This Offer Letter will give you all the details you need to have regarding your position on board. This letter will have your volunteer dates (when you start and stop), any costs to you, and the required training you might need to undergo. You might be called or emailed by us or other volunteers to prepare to ship out and help support those in need.


Popular Roles 

Of the many roles we have aboard, we have some highly desirable roles. These are some of the most popular roles that you can take on.

Anaesthesia staff, A critical role of our surgical team is to provide anaesthetic care to patients undergoing surgical and diagnostic procedures. These roles involve facilitating an accurate inventory of anaesthetic related materials and maintaining anaesthetic equipment. 

Carpenter, Surprising or not, this is a key role on the ships, as this person is responsible for repairs, renovation, and other special projects. 

Electricians and Technicians, keeping the lights on is even more important in a hospital. They’ll take care of maintenance, repair, and installation of new equipment plus be the keepers of some of the most critical systems on a ship. 

Nurses, we have a wide range of positions for nurses with a range of specialisations, all of which are desperately needed. Some examples are below:

  • Operating Theatre Nurses, handle patient care between the ward and operating theatre. 
  • PACU Nurse, are highly trained critical care nurses who work in a hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit. 
  • Paediatric Ward Nurse, caring for children undergoing quite often frightening and painful surgeries. 

Volunteers, there are a host of roles that need to be filled, whether your skills are in an office or as a physician, you can make a true difference in our patients’ lives. Take the plunge and Volunteer!


Work experience required as a registered nurse

We require that nurses have 2 years of post-licensed experience before volunteering. We also require that you have a currently activated license from your nation, as you will be asked to supply your license, diploma, and relevant certificates with your application. Unfortunately, space and circumstances will not allow for Medical and Nursing students to join to acquire on the job experience. We also require that you have a minimum commitment period, so we can effectively coordinate volunteers and ensure that we are not left shorthanded. The commitment periods can vary wildly depending on the role you are volunteering for, and how much orientation is required for your role.

Some other requirements are that you need to be fit and healthy, as the physical activities of living onboard our ships and in West Africa can be very demanding. You also need to be vaccinated, as there are many inoculations you’ll need when you come aboard. Some of the places we go have diseases and viruses that don’t occur outside of that country. Be sure to check that you are up to date on your vaccinations.


FAQs about doing volunteer work at Mercy Ships

Where will I be volunteering? Presently, there is a great need in Africa and we are concentrating our efforts in Africa, with Africa Mercy based in Senegal. From there we coordinate with locals to spread our services as far as we can.

For how long can I volunteer? It can vary depending on the role, from 2 weeks to 2 years. Notably, a married person applying to serve without their spouse can serve for up to 3 months. Finally, each role has a minimum and maximum period of commitment, as this allows us to predict and coordinate volunteers to ensure we aren’t short-staffed. Please check our website for a more accurate list of roles and commitment lengths.

What are Crew fees? Crew fees are paid by every adult crew member and vary depending on the length of commitment as well as the volunteer’s country of residence. We have a lot of costs to carry out our mission, a lot of which are covered by donations. Crew fees mostly go towards operational expenses (food, drink and transportation costs) on board so we can maximize the impact of donations by putting 75% directly into programmatic expenses like critical surgeries, repairs, and maintenance. These are basically the living expenses for your stay on the ship.  Volunteers are encouraged to set up fundraising pages to help fund their stay on the ship.

What languages do I need to know? You need to be Proficient in English for every role on Mercy Ships, and you’ll need to be fluent for some roles. While some French is helpful it is not standard. If you are not sure of your English proficiency level, please refer to the FAQs on our website to get a clear understanding of our requirements.

How did Covid-19 affect Operations? As we are a hospital, and we must protect our vulnerable patients, we have implemented appropriate measures, such as mandatory mask-wearing outside of your cabin. Please bring a minimum of seven washable masks with you. Regular testing, vaccinations, social distancing/gathering limits and updated policies and procedures to ensure that everyone is safe as they can be.



Have you ever said, “One day…” 

Make that day today, and join a community of like-minded compassionate individuals, who are working together to achieve a common goal. You will experience companionship and events that will shape your life. There is a mixture of cabins ranging from multi-person cabins to two-person cabins depending on the ship and if you are travelling with a family member. 

There is a whole world of people and places to see and learn from. 

No matter what your skillset or job experience, we have a role and position for you.

Our organisation provides hope and healing to some of the world’s poorest people.

Help us bring medical care to the suffering, kindness to those in need, and provide faith and hope to the men, women and children who have nothing. 

Bring your mercy to the world.