Ipswich Hospital nurse navigator Gail Rogers (middle) answered a call to board the USNS Mercy, an American Navy hospital ship, as part of a humanitarian mission in South East Asia.
Ipswich Hospital nurse navigator Gail Rogers (middle) answered a call to board the USNS Mercy, an American Navy hospital ship, as part of a humanitarian mission in South East Asia.

Ipswich nurse's tale of the high seas

AN IPSWICH nurse navigator has returned from a global aid mission around the world.

West Moreton Health Nurse Navigator Gail Rogers took the transition in her stride when she swapped the familiar wards of Ipswich Hospital for a 1000-bed hospital on the high seas during a recent seven-week deployment with the Navy.

Ms Rogers, an experienced clinical nurse who supports and smooths the journey of complex and chronic patients across the system in her role as a Medical and NDIS Nurse Navigator, is also a Lieutenant Nursing Officer in the Royal Australian Navy Reserves.

Ms Rogers joined the Reserves in 2010 and in late April she answered a call to board the USNS Mercy, an American Navy hospital ship, as part of a humanitarian mission in South East Asia.

After boarding in Kuala Lumpur, the ship set sail for Sri Lanka and later docked in Vietnam and Japan.

Spanning more than 270m, the hospital ship has 12 operating theatres and a surgical robot to facilitate complex surgery. It also has an 80-bed Intensive Care Unit, medical imaging, a blood bank, emergency department and medical and surgical wards.

"I worked in Casualty Receiving on board the ship, looking after any injured or emergency patients,” Ms Rogers said

"We were also responsible for screening any interpreters and patients who came aboard for TB (tuberculosis) and head lice.”

When the ship docked, Ms Rogers said they also set up clinics in local hospitals to screen patients for general surgery or cataract surgery. At other times they set up general practice clinics in local schools where they provided health care, optometry, audiology, pharmacy, physiotherapy and dental care to the locals who presented.

"There were often hundreds of people turning up every day, and we were unable to see them all.”

She said the experience was a reminder of how lucky Australians were; "I am grateful that I live in Australia with our access and provision of health care.”

USNS Mercy routinely tours the Asia Pacific region as part of the Pacific Partnerships Humanitarian Mission, which was set up following the December 2004 tsunami which devastated parts of the region. The mission coordinates joint health care, veterinarian and engineering works to assist local communities and is also used to prepare for potential humanitarian and disaster responses.

"It was a fantastic opportunity and I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to be involved,” Ms Rogers said.

"It was also a reminder of how lucky we are to have the Australian health system and I am grateful that I live in Australia with our access and provision of health care.”

West Moreton Health's Executive Director Nursing and Midwifery Dr Robyn Henderson said Ms Rogers was an experienced clinical nurse and would be an asset to any team.

"Her depth of knowledge and skill would be a real asset to USNS Mercy and the visited communities,” Dr Henderson said.

"I think we can take pride knowing that the skills and experience that Gail has developed at West Moreton Health are as equally valuable on an international stage as they are to us.

"Gail has been able to share her expertise with other health workers and assist people in more vulnerable areas and that keenness to make a difference is a fundamental quality shared by all nurses and midwives.

"She's also returned with some great experience and training that could benefit West Moreton Health too.'' 



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