Life

It’s a privilege to be a night nurse

March 24th, 2022 1:30 PM

By Emma Connolly

Margaret Kingston is one of 31 Irish Cancer Society night nurses providing vital care and support throughout Cork. She strives to bring dignity, respect and compassion during a person’s final journey, and support to their family. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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Funds from this year’s Daffodil Day, which takes place on March 25th, will help to fund the Irish Cancer Society’s night nurses. Margaret Kingston, who works in West Cork, explains what the role involves

WHEN Margaret Kingston saw first-hand the difference an Irish Cancer Society night nurse can make to an individual and their family, she felt the calling to become one herself.

A nurse for over 20 years, she had previously worked mainly in local community hospitals, in the care of the older adult and in palliative care.

Margaret was inspired to become an Irish Cancer Society night nurse herself when a member of her family wished to spend her final days in her own home, and not in hospital, which was facilitated by the ICS night nurses.

‘It was that personal experience, seeing the difference it can make to a person being in their home, that encouraged me into the new role,’ said Margaret who lives in Castletown-Kinneigh near Enniskeane.

Margaret is one of 31 Irish Cancer Society night nurses serving Cork and the cost of providing the vital service in 2021 (745 nights across 271 patients) was €272,000.

Funds raised on Daffodil Day, which returns to communities around Ireland for the first time in three years  on March 25th, helps to cover these costs.

Margaret travels throughout West Cork, and beyond, in her role which sees her offer both medical and psychological support to the cancer patient and comfort to their families.

Each house she visits is completely different and Margaret says she has to be at her best in all of them.

‘When I visit each house, I have to make sure that I am giving the best level of care that I can as time is not always a luxury I have with a person and their family,’ she said.

Given the circumstances, she said you can quickly move past polite conversation and form meaningful bonds, even if in most cases they are short-lived. She doesn’t usually spend more than a few nights in each house.

‘It’s a unique situation – when else would you leave a stranger into your home, your sanctuary, and at night, when you’re at our most vulnerable?’ she asks.

A lot of the time families are exhausted from lack of sleep and caring duties when she arrives for the 11pm to 7am visit, and in many cases this could be their first experience of death.

The mam-of-two takes her lead from the patient and their family – some wish to talk and there can be lots of late night cups of tea in the kitchen. Margaret mentions how important it is to take time to listen to the patient and their family in validating the difficult journey they have walked up to this point in time. )thers prefer to process this journey more quietly, Margaret ensures she is their eyes and ears at the bedside.

That’s where Margaret simply asks herself one thing: ‘If this was my loved one what would I want for them at this time?’

She strives to bring dignity, respect and compassion during a person’s final journey. All of which is done within the comfort of the patients own home.

‘Nothing prepares any of us to lose a loved one. I can’t take away people’s pain, or change the fact that their loved one will die, but I can support them to honour that person, their preferences and their life.

‘I look at my work as a real privilege, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling.’

WELL KNOWN FACES ARE BACKING DAFFODIL DAY

DAFFODIL Day will return to communities for the first time in three years on March 25th.

As the flagship fundraising day returns to the streets of Ireland for the first time since 2019, when the pademic started, the Irish Cancer Society is calling on the public to take part in any way they can to show solidarity and support for anyone affected by cancer.

Every day cancer takes so much from so many families and Daffodil Day is a chance to come together and take something back, giving hope and raising funds so that one day cancer will take no more.

Broadcaster Claire Byrne is supporting the campaign and said: ‘I am proud to support Daffodil Day 2022. Cancer affects every family in Ireland in some way, and we know that this year alone, almost 45,000 people will hear the words “you have cancer.”

‘Daffodil Day has such an important place in the calendar each year and I’m delighted that it will be back on our streets on March 25th.’

Jockey Rachael Blackmore is also urging people to get involved: ‘Cancer is something that affects so many families around Ireland.  The donations received fund ground-breaking cancer research and provide free support services and care to people affected by cancer and I’m encouraging everyone to support Daffodil Day 2022 and donate what they can.’

Averil Power, ceo of the Irish Cancer Society added: ‘Daffodil Day is our most important fundraising event of the year and the money raised goes directly to funding crucial supports including our support line, free counselling, our night nurses to provide end of life care, and financial support for families of children affected by cancer.

‘Along with these services, the money raised on Daffodil Day allows us to support life-changing cancer research.’

Centra are also proudly supporting Daffodil Day 2022. Customers will be able to add a €1 donation to their receipt at the till, and there will also be bucket collections and additional fundraisers taking place in stores.

•For more visit www.Cancer.ie/DaffodilDay

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