Hazel Graham, Irish Cancer Society Night Nurse
Hazel Graham began her career 31 years ago. Having worked mainly in hospital settings, she had always been drawn to the area of cancer care. She joined the Irish Cancer Society as a Night Nurse in 2006 and has provided end-of-life care for cancer patients in their own homes for the last 16 years. Her work as a Night Nurse sees her come to homes in Kilkenny, where she lives, as well as the surrounding counties. “Every situation is different and it’s unique to each person we look after,” she says.
Hazel’s evening begins when she receives a handover from the local Homecare Team, who are caring for the patient, or sometimes from the hospital. “Based on the handover report, I’ll make a call around 9pm to the family to find out how their loved one has been,” says Hazel. “For Night Nurses, our usual time is from 11pm to 7am but I might go earlier if needed to provide nursing care.”
Once she has ascertained when she needs to be there, she arrives at the home; assesses the patient and sees if the person has any symptoms that need to be relieved or if they need comfort measures.
“Once the patient is settled, I’ll chat to family members and talk to them as to what the plan is for the night,” Hazel explains. “Every situation is different. If somebody is settled, you’d be encouraging families to get some rest or even to lie down for a while. I always say to families that we’re providing only eight hours of care; there are still 16 hours in the day that they’re providing the care for their loved ones.”
Throughout the night, she will care for the patient and she will then leave at about 7am once the patient is symptom-free and settled.
Families can avail of the Night Nursing service for up to 10 nights. “The way I look at it is you’re on a journey with that family, even if it’s just for one night or part of the night,” says Hazel. “You’re coming in to relieve a little bit of the worry and hope that they’ll be less worried when there’s somebody there because they can hand over the care when you arrive.”
Last year, Night Nurses provided more than 7,300 nights of care, to allow patients at end of life to spend their days surrounded by their loved ones.
Hazel sees first-hand the comfort that the Night Nursing service brings to families. “It’s been said many times that night time is the hardest time to look after somebody ill when you’re at home. However, knowing that the Night Nursing service is being provided, you know that somebody is coming at 11pm or earlier if they need to. Families have that reassurance that there is somebody professional coming in to provide symptom management if needed but who is also there to reassure the family and give them support.
“Sometimes the family might have questions they might ask; sometimes they may have had an experience of looking after a loved one before they might think it’s going to be similar. You’re there to allow the family to talk and express any worries they have or about what’s happening or going to happen. You’re there for them as much as for the person we are looking after.”
Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line
If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm
For more information