Medical Requirements for Volunteers

Mercy Ships crew live and work in unique operational environments.   

Our ship-based facility operates like a specialized medical center, purpose-built to provide specific surgical procedures and training (see a detailed list of procedures here). We are not a comprehensive hospital system that can offer all medical services. We also work in field locations with significant health and environmental risks and limited medical facilities. For these reasons, certain medical conditions cannot be managed within our current operating structure and may disqualify an individual for service aboard a Mercy Ships vessel.  

To protect the health and safety of our crew, our medical guidelines require that all volunteers be in good physical and mental condition, and we require that all volunteers provide documentation to support their condition as part of the application process. In addition, all crew must obtain certain immunizations to comply with immigration and occupational health requirements before serving.  

Please read below to learn more about our medical guidelines as you consider service with Mercy Ships. 

 

Disqualifying Conditions

(including, but not limited to)

Active infectious diseases.

Age > 80 years old

Age < 18 (unless serving as a part of a family unit)

Anticoagulant medications

Any condition that precludes the capacity to walk up and down the stairs.

Bi-Polar Disorder

BMI > 40 or <16.5 

Cardiovascular conditions (e.g., Cardiac transplants, pacemakers

Immune Supressive Medications

Insulin Dependent Diabetes

Neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis) 

Ongoing cancer treatment.

Recent History of Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Respiratory conditions that require supplementary oxygen.

Significant mental health conditions (e.g., bipolar, psychosis, some personality disorders, etc.)

Uncontrolled hypertension

Potentially Disqualifying Conditions

(including, but not limited to)

Ages 70-79 (Must submit additional health documentation)

BMI>35/m2: (Applicants must submit additional laboratory tests) 

Cancer: (In remission with no sign of recurrence.) 

Cardiovascular conditions (e.g., Cardiac transplants, pacemakers) 

Depression: (Must be on a stable medication regimen if required, no recent hospitalization, with clearance from a treating psychologist or psychiatrist required.)  

Controlled non-insulin-dependent diabetes 

Epilepsy: (Seizure-free for five years if off treatment or seizure-free for two years if stable on medication.)

History of of cardiac conditions.

History of stroke or transient stroke

Non-Insulin Diabetes

Pregnancy

Respiratory conditions (e.g., sleep apnea, COPD, severe asthma, etc.)

Severe Allergies

The final determination of an applicant’s medical fitness to serve is done on a case-by-case basis and may require the applicant to provide additional medical information. If you have any further questions regarding our medical guidelines, please contact our Medical Review Facilitator at [email protected].

Medical FAQs

What are the immunization requirements?

Because we work in countries where fatal diseases are present and can be prevented by vaccination, we require several immunizations for all* crew members coming on board. (* Parents must ensure that their children are up to date with all childhood vaccinations before service.) The vaccines required or recommended may vary by location, crew members’ age, and position on board. Mercy Ships will provide immunization information for all applicants during the application process. Please do not get any immunizations until instructed to do so. You may be asked to receive all or some of the immunizations or screenings listed below: 

  • Hepatitis A 
  • Hepatitis B 
  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) 
  • Meningitis 
  • Polio  
  • Tetanus / Diphtheria  
  • Tuberculosis (TB) screening process  
  • Typhoid 
  • Yellow Fever 
  • COVID-19 (recommended)  
  • Rabies (recommended)  

What health or age restrictions apply?

Health restrictions: All volunteers must be in good health and prepared for the physical demands of both living and working on board a ship in Africa. For example, our volunteers may be required to sleep in a bunk bed in a dorm-style room with other volunteers of the same gender. 

  • Did you know the ship has multiple decks, and the average crew member climbs about 30 flights of stairs daily? 
  • Did you know some roles primarily work off-ship (and sometimes even live off-ship) and require different physical stamina to be exposed to the heat and African climate? 
  • Did you know that roles such as Housekeeper, Sales Staff, Dining Room Staff, Hostess, and Galley Staff are physically demanding and require heavy lifting and manual labor? 

Please see the chart above for information on specific conditions that may impact your opportunity to serve. 

Age restrictions: Currently, volunteers must be between 18 and 79 years old at the time of volunteer service. Applicants between 70-79 can serve for up to six months at a time and will be required to submit additional health documentation. 

Are physically impaired people able to volunteer with Mercy Ships?

Due to the limited confines of a Mercy Ship and compliance with ship safety standards, it is not possible for physically disabled persons to volunteer on a Mercy Ship. 

Why is TB screening required before joining Mercy Ships?

While tuberculosis (TB) is not as prevalent in the West as it is in Africa, our volunteers are at risk of exposure while serving.  We accept crew from all over the world – including areas more prone to TB infection – so we need to ensure none of our volunteers have active TB when they join. Given the close living conditions on the ship, a case would risk infecting the crew. 

This policy is also in keeping with modern standards from multiple health organizations and infection prevention and control recommendations that all people working in a hospital (in this case, all crew) be screened annually for tuberculosis.