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Experience Required for Cases as OR Instrument/Circulating Nurse

Hello Mercy Ship Volunteers,

I am aiming to volunteer as an OR nurse in the instrument/circulating nurse position next year in 2021 (once COVID-19 is over!) and am concerned about the experience I have and whether it is 'good enough' for what sort of procedures are done on the ship since I work in a smaller regional OR. Having familiarised myself with the listing for OR nurses and the list of procedures done on the ship which I found in the FAQ section, I would still love some input from other OR nurses who have served on the ship, the experience they have had and perhaps from some OR managers about what they are looking for in experience. This would be amazing!

For context, I have worked for 1 year and 8 months in the OR as an instrument/circulating nurse but also in PACU (recovery), anesthetics, admissions and pre-admission clinic, as we rotate through all roles in the facility where I am. With that said, my passion is the instrument/circulating role and my heart is to serve in this role on the Mercy Ships. The surgeries we do are obstetric (mainly cesarean sections), gynaecological (mainly Hysteroscopy D&Cs, Hysterectomies), ENT (tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies, Endoscopic sinus surgery, septoplasties), general (hernia repairs, lesion & lipoma removals, skin grafts [split skin and full thickness skin grafts], appendectomies, laparoscopic cholecystectomy removal, abscess incision & drainage, mastectomies, wide breast lesion excisions, sentinel lymph node biopsies), orthopaedics, (carpal tunnel decompressions, arthroscopies, finger and toe amputation, smaller fusions and ligament reconstructions). Mostly smaller procedures yet in mostly the right specialities (the only ones lacking are plastics and paediatrics).

I am in the process of seeking out whether I need to move away from my family and current job to a bigger facility to gain more experience in the OR to be able to volunteer on the Mercy Ships, which is a big decision. Although very keen to serve and make a difference in these precious lives I also don't want to weigh the team down with my lack of experience or knowledge of procedures. Any advice, input or insight you can offer me is much appreciated. Thank you in advance!


  • merrylhoeymerrylhoey Posts: 2

    HI Sophie!

    I am the Operating Room Clinical Supervisor on at the Africa Mercy ( have been this role for the past three Field services) - and I believe you are a fellow Aussie.

    I was so excited to read your question and hear that you are interested in applying to work with us! Great questions that you have and I can tell that you are thinking about how you can be the best prepared for when you are able to serve.

    Moving away from your family to seek employment is a huge decision - but that indicates the passion that you have to come to Mercy ships - and I commend that passion. Only you can make that decision.

    The main things we look for as an Operating Room nurse is scrub/scout work. Working in the OR (or theatres as we Aussies call them ) as an OR nurse on the Africa Mercy is almost 100% a scrub/scout role - that is no rotation through admission/post op/anaesthetics/recovery areas. You may occasionally be asked to help out in recovery if we know that you have those skills - but even that is rare. In each OR we have three nurses, for a specific case, one scrubs, one circulates and at the beginning of the case the third nurse collects the patient from the ward and they then stay with the patient throughout the anaesthetic, positioning phase etc - not as what you would call an anaesthetic nurse as we have an anaesthetist and an anaesthetic nurse allocated to each OR. We don't have orderlies as you and I would call them. Of those three OR nurses, one is the Team Leader and that is usually a long term OR nurse, almost definitely alumni with specific specialty and leadership experience.

    Days in the OR can be long - everyone works around 0800 - 1700 . Are you working full time hours where you are? We also do call in the evenings and on weekends. We don't get called in heavily on the weekends , but frequently the call team will work past 1700 on week days. Of course - being on call means not able to leave the ship for those hours on call.

    So have you got enough experience is really what you want to know.

    We do look for 2 years in the OR in a scrub/scout role. It sounds as though you are gaining a good solid base of scrub/scout activity and I would encourage you to keep that up. Although you don't have what I would call big max-fax or plastic case experience - we would still very definitely look at your application as your other experience is great. Does your facility do ophthalmic surgery? Cataracts? I would think that with Covid 19 - and that it will be some months before we are returning to Africa, you will gain the two year experience soon!

    From reading your question, it would seem that there is no larger hospital close and you are in a regional hospital? Could I ask which state? If you want to email me direct we might even be able to meet up in person. [email protected] I am back in Australia currently due to Covid - but will be returning at some stage to the Africa Mercy.


  • DawnCrowtherDawnCrowther Surgical Staffing Manager Posts: 32 - Current Staff

    Hello Sophie,

    Thank you for your interest in serving with Mercy Ships and posting your questions on myMercy. Merryl has a lot of experience from her years serving with Mercy Ships in our Operating Rooms and she can offer you a lot of insight for the Operating Room Nurse role. Don't hesitate to ask any additional questions; we are happy to help you.

    Together we bring hope and healing.

    Dawn Crowther, Surgical Staffing Manager

  • sophie.gsophie.g Posts: 3

    Dear Merryl,

    Thank you so much for your reply and insight, I was so excited to read your comment. I currently like you thought, work in a smaller regional facility in Queensland, doing around 8 shifts a fortnight with call on weeknights and weekends so I am perfectly happy to do that on the ship too and am more than willing to do longer days if needed. So excited to be a part of it and would absolutely love to meet up if we can Covid/distance provided. I will email you also.

    Thanks again so much!



  • sophie.gsophie.g Posts: 3

    Dear Dawn,

    Thank you so much for your comment, I look forwards to serving with the Mercy ships and making a difference! 😁



  • d4gg312rd4gg312r Posts: 2

    It all sounds really Exciting!

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