Alumna Takes Her Nursing Skills to Sea
Mission of Mercy
After Shannon Gardiner, BSN ’09, Tampa, Fla., went on a two-week mission trip to Uganda several years ago, she realized she was ready to make a longer-term impact. A Google search led her to Mercy Ships, an international charity with the world’s largest private hospital ship, which docks at different ports around the world and provides free surgeries for people who do not have access to medical care.
“I thought, why not? This experience brings together three aspects that are vitally important to me: my love for travel, my desire to use my nursing skills, and a community that believes in being the hands and feet of Jesus to individuals who need to be treated like humans and not deformities,” says Ms. Gardiner.
She volunteered with Mercy Ships for two months in Madagascar in 2016 and two-and-a-half months in Cameroon, West Africa, in 2017. This April she wrapped up a three-month commitment with Mercy Ships on the Africa Mercy docked in Guinea, West Africa, as a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse in the maxillary facial ward.
Her experiences on the ship have been invaluable and heartwarming. For example, one patient had a tumor removed from her lower jaw that weighed seven pounds. “To see the physical transformation that happens on the ward through the skilled surgeons is literally jaw dropping,” Ms. Gardiner says. And she notes that the medical staff’s “touch, eye contact and form of caring is often transformational to many patients who have been ostracized for most of their lives.”
When she is not volunteering with Mercy Ships—which she funds with donations from her church, loved ones and her financially responsible lifestyle—Ms. Gardiner works as a nurse at St. Joseph Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla.
“To say that the four years I spent at Kent State University launched me in a flexible, lifelong career is an understatement,” she says. “The opportunities I was afforded at Kent State were priceless. From shadowing my Cleveland Clinic instructor on transports to the pediatric oncology unit at Rainbow Babies, I was able to see a well-rounded nursing experience at some of the top institutions.”
—Ashley Whaley, BS ’06, MEd ’12