It’s been about a week since I’ve come onto the USNS Mercy, and we are still currently underway for a couple more days before we reach our next mission site at Papua New Guinea. As a civilian volunteer, being able to go aboard a Navy ship is such a unique experience. This is the first time that I have ever been able to do something like this, so this past week I’ve just been trying to adjust to the military culture and a new lifestyle on the ship.
Throughout this week, there has been a lot of preparation on our part in regards to getting ready for the next mission. The estimated time of travel between Fiji and Papua New Guinea is about 10 days, so in the mean time, we’ve been able to help out in the dental clinic, familiarize ourselves with various instruments, communicate with the enlisted and the providers, prepare operative packs and equipment needed for our field work, and spend time discussing schedules and briefing about things to expect.
During our time underway, here’s an example of what my daily schedule might look like:
0615 Wake up
0720 Arrive for muster (meeting)
0800-1100 Preparation for PNG mission, training
1330-1530 Assist in dental clinic/take x-rays
1700 Make phone calls, send out/check e-mails
1800 Hang out in NGO lounge
1900-2000 Kickboxing class
2100 Read, journal, blog
Since we have not yet arrived at the site yet, we have a lot more down time. Schedules will look completely different once we arrive on site, and I’m eagerly awaiting to see what that experience will be like. Here are a couple of the things that we’ve done over the course of this week:
Organized and sorted through boxes of toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste to assemble oral hygiene kits for distribution once we are on site,
Assembled bins of various instruments used the most in our dental procedures in the field to better assess what is needed and make things more organized,
Requested that each provider place their most used instruments in a kidney bin so that volunteers helping for sterilization and tray set-up know the preferences of each dentist,
Created cardboard dividers in the supply cabinets to better organize the various forceps and elevators (amongst other instruments used for extractions), and easily identify between pedo and adult instruments/operative packs,
Assisted the enlisted in various dental procedures and helped take x-rays (pano, bite-wings, PA’s),
Communicated with the enlisted to address any questions or voice any concerns regarding the clinic, upcoming CHEs and SMEEs, or any other areas where we needed some information or advice,
Made phone calls out to our director to give updates about daily happenings and to ensure our safety and wellbeing aboard the ship or discuss any other pertinent matters,
Adjusted to waking up early, sleeping in bunks, the constant back and forth motion of the rocking of the ship, going to bed before midnight, etc.
So that’s a brief overview of my personal experience on the ship so far. We have a couple more days ahead of us before we arrive in Papua New Guinea, and there will be more adjustments and changes to be made then. As for now, our team has continued to work with the enlisted in dental clinic, making adjustments based off of feedback from volunteers in Fiji on things that went smoothly/didn’t go so smoothly, meeting with lieutenants to get more information about cities/sites we will be visiting and how things are expected to run and be set up, and using our chairside assisting and x-ray skills to help the patient flow in clinic on the ship.
Until next time, I’m sending lots of love from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hope your day is beautiful ♥
(Written June 23, 2015)