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Eye care clinical and surgical teams play a crucial on board our hospital ships

On board each hospital ship,  eye care professionals volunteer in clinical and surgical roles, providing eye treatment for people in low-income countries. Babies, children and adults of all ages receive free assessment and treatment, surgery and post-op care.  These services are usually out of reach for people living in extreme poverty in the nations Mercy Ships serves. The outcomes are life-transforming.

We’ve got a challenge for you – but say yes and your courage and compassion will change lives and bring essential medical and surgery care to sub-Saharan Africa. We need volunteers willing to spend a couple of weeks, a few months or more, on board. Can you help provide otherwise inaccessible clinical and surgical eye care, for our patients?  Why not come with us?

See the full range of clinical and surgical eye care opportunities here.

The professional experience of a lifetime awaits the brave and compassionate, ready for a new sense of purpose. 

If you are looking for an inspiring mission to invest your professional skills and personal experience in, volunteering on board may be your next adventure.

Join the volunteer crew from all over the world who are making a life-transforming difference by using their professional skills to help serve the marginalised, with Mercy Ships.

If you have two years of clinical or surgical eye care experience, and a desire to help the vulnerable, then volunteering on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ships may be the next fabulous career move you make. 

The hospital ships’ operating clinics, theatres, wards and ICU are state-of-the-art, and the equipment and medications are familiar for those working in a New Zealand or OECD health care context.

There’s a place for you on board!

Eye care role details

Multiple roles with varying time commitments are available, including leadership opportunities. The scope of work includes technical specialists, day clinic and inpatient surgical care for both adults and children.

Minimum volunteer period: 4 weeks

Requirements: Currently registered and practising, with 2 years of experience in the specified role. 

Eye care opportunities on board

Optometrist (prescribing)

Preferred Minimum Commitment: 3 months

Eye Team Manager

Preferred Minimum Commitment: 9 months


Preferred Minimum Commitment: 2 weeks

Theatre Nurse Ophthalmic Lead

Preferred Minimum Commitment: 2 years

Day Surgery Nurse

Preferred Minimum Commitment: 4 Weeks

Scheduling Nurse

Preferred Minimum Commitment: 7 months


No, all scrubs and equipment are provided by the ship.

All roles are primarily Monday to Friday with the occasional weekend On Call.

The most common cause of avoidable blindness in sub-Saharan Africa is dense cataracts – including paediatric cases. Other conditions treated on board include ptergiums, strabismus. Non-surgical care is provided to treat allergies, infection, injury and pain. Sunglasses are distributed to protest sensitive eyes after operations. Reading glasses are supplied to visually impaired patients.

Students often ask to join Mercy Ships as an elective session or to get exposure/experience in a developing country, but regrettably we are unable to accommodate these requests. The majority of the positions in the hospital require a current license and we do not have personnel or bed space on board currently to facilitate these opportunities.

  • All volunteers must be over 18 to join, must be in good health with a BMI <35, and be aware of both the physical demands of living on board and in Africa, as well as any physical demands of the role for which they want to join. For example, our volunteers may be required to sleep in a bunk-bed, sharing a cabin with other volunteers of the same gender.
  • The ship has multiple decks, and crew members could climb about 30 flights of stairs per day.
  • A married person can serve up to three months without their spouse. 


Mercy Ships is an international humanitarian organisation based on Christian values. Our mission is to improve access to health care in low-income nations. 

By deploying the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa Mercy and the Global Mercy, Mercy Ships works with host countries to help them improve their health care systems.

Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers from over 60 nations donate their time and resources to support the Mercy Ships vision.

Mercy Ships’ surgical specialties include maxillofacialplastic reconstructiveorthopaedic, ophthalmic, general, and gynecological (obstetric fistula) surgery.

Simultaneously, we provide training and mentoring to upskill local health professionals, strengthening the host nation’s health care capacity. 

I love talking to people about finding their fit on board, and I’m here to answer your questions about volunteering.