Military nurse joins international Mercy mission

Lt Iphigenia Morales, Mercy mission

Lt Iphigenia Morales on board the American naval hospital ship USNS Mercy working as a staff nurse.

Canadian Forces nurse Lt Iphigenia Morales is getting the training opportunity of a lifetime.

She’s currently on board the Amercian naval hospital ship USNS Mercy working as a staff nurse.  

The noncombatant ship is part of the UN Pacific Partnership 12, a humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

It left on a four-and-a-half month humanitarian journey May 3 from San Diego, and is crewed by 70 civil service mariners working for Military Sealift Command, who operate and navigate the ship while navy planners and medical personnel plan and execute the mission.

Japanese landing ship tank Oosumi, carrying a complete medical team, helicopters and representatives from Japanese volunteer organizations, will join Mercy during its stops in the Philippines and Vietnam.

The 28-year-old nurse from Canadian Forces Health Services (Pacific) has joined the Medical Surgery Ward, helping prepare and assist pre- and post-surgery patients.

Upon hearing of the ship’s arrival, people begin lining up on the jetty in the wee hours of the morning waiting to be ferried to the ship.

The civil service mariners operate two 33-foot utility boats to transport patients and mission personnel between ship’s anchorage and shore. Mercy is too large to pull pier side at any of the mission stops. The operation of these small boats, which carry more than twice as many passengers as Mercy’s two embarked helicopters, greatly increase the number of people who will benefit from the mission.

“Lines of more than 500 patients begin forming at three in the morning, waiting for the clinic to open, and yet the people remain positive and excited to interact with us,” says Lt Morales.

In Sangihe, Indonesia, she was part of a Medical Civic Action Program for six days, working alongside local healthcare authorities to provide education and healthcare assistance to the community. They met with more than 1,900 patients who remained excited to meet them regardless of the long wait.

“It reminded me that something as simple as a friendly face and some health information can have such a huge impact. I’ll carry that with me forever,” she says. “The strength and resiliency of the people that I’ve encountered has been incredible. I’ve met people that remain strong and cheerful no matter their life circumstances.”  

Through this experience, coupled with her military work, Lt Morales says she has witnessed the uniform strength and skill of nurses around the world.

“My belief in the universal value of nursing has been reinforced. I see nurses from a variety of backgrounds and countries come together to provide skilled, professional care in a variety of environments. Strong leadership skills, extensive knowledge, and the ability to assess patients despite language and cultural barriers have allowed the nursing staff to provide excellent patient care in an ever-changing environment.”

The assistance the Mercy team provides is important, but Lt Morales says the message it provides is just as vital.

“Healthcare has no boundaries; this operation is designed to strengthen bi-lateral relationships with other countries, which is crucial to maintaining regional security and stability. But the true hallmark of Pacific Partnership is to ensure host nations are equipped with sustainable programs that help them prepare for and support emergency relief efforts as we work together toward a broader goal of maintaining a stable and secure Pacific region,” she says.

The journey to Asia-Pacific is especially meaningful for Lt Morales because she was born in Balanga, Bataan in the Philippines. At age six her family immigrated to Canada.

Her journey in Mercy ends at the U.S. naval base in Subic Bay, Philippines. Her hometown is 55 km away and she plans to spend some leave at the family home where her two uncles live.

Thirty Canadian military personnel have joined the Mercy mission this year, divided into two teams with each covering half of the deployment.

For more information on the mission visit

Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.