Alumna brings nursing skills aboard hospital ship to Africa

Human and Social Development

Alumna Sharon Horton stands in front of the hospital ship. Photo: Mercy Ships, 2018.

UVic alumna Sharon Horton (BSc ’06), a graduate of the university’s nursing program in the Faculty of Human and Social Development, lived and worked onboard the world’s largest charity hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, earlier this year as an outpatient nurse.

Horton volunteered in Douala, Cameroon with the Christian organization, taking leave from her work as an outpatient burn-and-wound nurse at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. Before embarking for Africa in April, she spoke with the Times Colonist, saying she was excited “to learn from the various cultural/work experiences.”

Mercy Ships is a non-governmental registered charity which uses hospital ships to provide free dental care, medical training and healthcare services including surgeries for thousands of patients who lack access to safe, affordable and timely operations.

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“I am very grateful to have had the chance to serve alongside the crew of the Africa Mercy,” adds Horton.

More than 400 volunteers from 40 different nations run the 152-metre ship with five operating theatres and a 78-bed patient ward specializing in maxillofacial, reconstructive, plastics, orthopaedic, ophthalmic, dental and obstetric fistula surgeries.

The all-volunteer international crew includes surgeons, dentists, chefs, writers, photog­raphers, engineers, teachers and more.

The ship spends 10 months in each host nation's port. This was the organization’s first field service in Cameroon, where an estimated 40 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Seeing patients’ post-operative care go well and wounds heal was an amazing experience.
UVic nursing grad Sharon Horton

With a severe shortage of medical professionals—there are fewer than two doctors for every 10,000 people—the Cameroonian health system struggles to offer a high level of care.

View a short overview video.

Now back in Victoria, Horton plans to continue volunteering overseas in the future.

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In this story

Keywords: alumni, international, nursing

People: Sharon Horton

Publication: The Torch

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