A FORMER York nurse has spent Christmas on the Indian Ocean after transferring her skills to a floating hospital.

Cathy Armstrong is based on a ship called Africa Mercy, which is docked in Madagascar.

The 29-year-old children's nurse, who trained at the University of York and worked at the city's hospital for five years, is now volunteering with Mercy Ships, a Christian missionary charity.

Cathy said she missed spending Christmas with friends and family, but having worked on Africa Mercy before, she is happy to be back on board.

"I was able to celebrate Christmas on a ship in Madagascar - who gets to say that?" she said.

"We have people from all around the world who have different traditions and cultural backgrounds, so it was fun to get to know how other people celebrate.

"The community on board is quite unique and unlike anywhere else. Also spending Christmas somewhere where it's hot and where I can see the beach is pretty unique too.

"I really missed my family, especially my nephews and niece, but I'm here for now and it's where I'm meant to be for this time, so I am trying my best to enjoy and make the most of every minute."

She added: "They stop surgeries for about a week and a half around Christmas, but some wards stay open with patients recovering from their surgeries, so they still need nurses looking after them."

Cathy is on board as a children's nurse, but also looks after adults when required.

Her work has included caring for plastics, maxillofacial (skull and jaw), orthopaedic and general surgery patients.

The ship docks at different locations around Africa, with patients brought on board to receive treatment they would not otherwise have access to.

Cathy first volunteered with Mercy Ships after being given eight weeks unpaid annual leave from her job at York Hospital in 2013.

She said: "When I came back to York and my job, something stirred in me that I couldn't shake.

"My experience on the ship and then coming back home to the NHS made me appreciate what an amazing healthcare system we have in the UK.

"When you see the hospitals and health care in the countries which Mercy Ships serves, it puts everything into perspective.

"While I have the opportunity, I want to use my skills as a trained nurse and passion for those who are not as privileged as us to make a difference, one person at a time, and show them God's love."

Cathy added: "My general paediatric nursing skills from York have definitely served me well here.

"Nurses who are adult trained at home will often ask for advice or skills or techniques - and me to them vice versa.

"I have learnt new skills here on board too which is amazing - very different to home but still amazing."

While much was different this Christmas, there were still some similarities.

Cathy said: "I'm good friends with a few other Brits on board and so I bought a jar of mincemeat with me by request from them so we could make mince pies and watch the Queen's speech on Christmas Day."