Making Waves: How One Nurse Seas Hope

Making Waves: How One Nurse Seas Hope

By Lauren Palmieri

May 12, 2019

Florence Nightingale once said, “nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter's or sculptor's work….”

For International Nurses Day, celebrated on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies is spotlighting Hanna Shim, a nurse currently serving aboard Mercy Ships, an organization that Johnson & Johnson has partnered with for more than 25 years.

“I have always wanted to help people in need.”

That’s what Hanna Shim, a Registered Nurse from Busan, South Korea, said when asked why she decided to pursue a career in medicine. Now a 10-year veteran, her passion to help others has driven her to become a volunteer with Mercy Ships, an organization that brings hospital ships to countries where medical facilities and personnel are limited or nonexistent to provide free surgeries to people in need. Currently aboard the Africa Mercy, in Conakry, Guinea, Hanna is serving as an operating room nurse for several of the organization’s programs including Women’s Health, General Surgery and craniomaxillofacial (relating to the whole area of the mouth, jaw, face and skull).

After graduating from Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) in 2009, Hanna began working as an operating room nurse in a local SNUH hospital. She’s been head of nursing for orthopaedic surgery there for the last three years. Hanna heard about Mercy Ships at a Missionary Fair and felt it was a perfect fit for her. Joining the organization meant leaving her current job, and that is exactly what she did.

Hanna embarked on March 24, ready and eager for a new adventure and, most importantly, to make a difference. “I can’t wait to meet all the volunteers from around the world, and, most of all, I can’t wait to experience the pleasure of seeing people get a new life from surgery. That is awesome!" she said.


Hanna Shim [right] with a Mercy Ships patient. © Mercy Ships / photographer Shawn Thompson

Not long into her journey, Hanna met Hannah, a young girl who traveled with her mother from Sierra Leone to receive reconstructive surgery. Hannah suffered from a virus called Noma, which led her to lose her nose. Nurse Hanna felt an instant connection to patient Hannah, and not just because they shared the same name. “Hannah is the happiest girl,” said Hanna. “She is an active little girl, full of life and is often the considered the ‘life of the party’ among the kids at Hope Centre (where patients can stay for longer term care).”

After her surgery, Hannah and her mother couldn’t contain their excitement about her new nose. Her mother thanked the Mercy Ships staff by singing and dancing for them. Moments like this reinforce Hanna’s decision to volunteer. Witnessing the impact of these free surgeries is everything she imagined it would be – priceless joy and life altering results like those realized by Hannah and her mom.

“It is a meaningful experience to serve a country in need. I'm really proud of myself for coming here. As a nurse I am able to use what I've been trained to do, to help bring healing and hope to people who really need it,” she said.

With less than a month left aboard Africa Mercy, Hanna is savoring her last moments of magic and imagining where her mission will take her next.


Hanna Shim [center] poses with Ian Walker, Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact [left], and, Michael del Prado, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Leader [right], onboard the Africa Mercy. © Mercy Ships / photographer Shawn Thompson

Johnson & Johnson has partnered with Mercy Ships for more than 25 years to donate products from both Ethicon and DePuy Synthes. Learn more about this partnership and consider donating to Mercy Ships today.