“I’m from Ardfert in north Kerry originally. I lived in Dublin, England, the Middle East and America over the course of my working life. Around 1993, I was driving through Kenmare and I just said, ‘I am going to live here.’ I just saw huge potential: the beauty, the peace, the setting, I just felt a crazy love for the place!

I have always worked in oncology and palliative care and for the last 18 years I’ve worked in palliative community nursing in west Cork. At the same time I was night nursing with the Irish Cancer Society when I could manage it. It is a pleasure and privilege to be a night nurse.

In this role, I also still do the induction days for new night nurses. We work with everybody in the Society.


There are over 200-night nurses throughout the country. We provide a home nursing service to patients and their families for all ages, from babies to adulthood. It could be end-of-life care, symptom control or respite care. We provide advice and support for the carers and family. We also make sure that there is continuity of care for the patient in their home.

Agnes Horan is a night nurse living in Kenmare, Co Kerry. /Anne Marie Cleary, Kerry Tour Guides

Most of our referrals are from the community palliative care team, but GPs, public health nurses and hospitals can also refer patients to us. The referrals will be sent to our headquarters in Northumberland Road. Our colleagues then contact the night nurse closest to the patient’s home.

We look after our patients from 11pm and leave at 7am. If the patient is quite symptomatic, or if a family needs extra support, there is a twilight service available from 6pm to 11pm.

A warm welcome

We are welcomed with such warmth at the homes we visit. We introduce ourselves; we meet the patient and the family; we do our assessment and advise the family to take a rest. We would call people if there was any change in the person during the night. The family breathes a sigh of relief that they can close their eyes for a few hours.

We are invited into their home, so we go with the flow. We do not impose ourselves. We are gentle and compassionate and listen to every story, because every story is so different.

As nurses, we have always done night duty. For us, this means self-care, being sure that we are well rested before we arrive to the house. Having plenty of water, fruit and snacks, that kind of thing. It’s thinking ‘this person needs me for the next eight hours, so I better be feeling good, so I can give it my all for the eight hours.’

Our role takes us into people’s homes throughout rural Ireland. I suppose going to the house at night, you will always check the Eircode and be prepared. It’s all about preparation really. We have to take into account the route Google suggests might not be the best one, so we might go a different road, a road we got to know from talking with the family or from doing previous calls.

People are overwhelmingly generous with their donations and their volunteering time

If the drive is one hour to the person’s home, we will leave in plenty of extra time. For example, if the road is not good or if the weather isn’t great. We take all that into consideration. When there is a weather warning in place, we judge it on our own local weather and we are advised to be safe at all costs. On the first night to a family, there is no harm in being a little early, so you can get your bearings, introduce yourself to your patient and meet their family.

Daffodil Day

People are overwhelmingly generous with their donations and their volunteering time. They share stories of their loved ones and express gratitude for the support that they have received from the Irish Cancer Society. Every euro that is given comes with a story, a reason and a meaning.

Driving home in the morning is a great time to reflect. We always have our flask of tea or coffee and thank God that everybody has been safe on the roads in recent years.

I am totally in love with the Beara peninsula. Driving back up towards Kenmare, the space and the light of Beara is a tonic. It’s even fab in winter as it’s quiet and everything seems so still as I drive along.

I swear, it’s a job that I just adore. There is such love and a compassion out there. Any nurse that I have ever met who does this job truly, truly loves it.

More info

The Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day, takes place on Friday, 24 March. The Irish Cancer Society’s freephone number is 1800 200 700 if you would like some support. Alternatively, you can donate at: cancer.ie/daffodilday

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Kate Durrant writes: Early risers

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