Text by Patricia Klimkewicz, PhD, MBA, MS, RN-BC; photos courtesy of Patricia Klimkewicz, PhD, MBA, MS, RN-BC
On a sunny day in May, I boarded the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy (TAH-19) for a five month humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and community relationship projects mission in the Pacific. The USNS Mercy served as the command platform for Pacific Partnership 2016, the largest multilateral disaster response preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The objectives of this mission was to advance the United States partnership and inter-agency interoperability throughout the mission planning and execution. This included preparing and enhancing regional response capabilities.
The USNS Mercy was built as an oil tanker, SS Worth, by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in 1976. The USNS Mercy was commissioned on 8 November 1986 to provide mobile acute and surgical medical services in disaster or humanitarian relief efforts. The Mercy is 894 feet in length, speed of 17 knots, displacement of 65,552 tons, and beam of 106 feet. She has such a magnificent presence that it takes your breath away. She has a total patient capacity of 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms which upon activation is fully operational in only five days.
The scheme of maneuver for this mission included ports in Timor-Leste, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In each of these ports, we provided direct patient care to local nationals during our community health exchanges. We worked side by side with the health care providers in the host nation hospitals and held subject matter expert exchanges. As nurse educator, I coordinated directorate-wide training and education needs for active duty, partner nation and non-governmental medical staff. I coordinated 415 medical assets for 63 host nation engagements. I had the extraordinary opportunity to be a guest lecturer at Kulliyyah School of Nursing, Kuantan. My presentation was called, “Community Health and Public Health Nursing: Application of the Windshield Survey.” We also participated in prenatal home visits and the distribution of personal hygiene supplies to school-age children. I feel honored and privileged to have been on this worthwhile mission.