'Trust and communication are vital' - Mary, Irish Cancer Society Night Nurse



Mary Twohill joined the Night Nursing Service two years ago. Having trained as a nurse in Beaumont Hospital, she has held various positions since she qualified in 1998, including working as a research nurse as well as a clinical support nurse specialising in the area of Parkinson’s disease.

“I took a few years off when I had my third child to concentrate on home and family life,” Mary says. “When my little girl was three, I was considering going back to work when a friend called me to tell me she listened to a radio interview with a Night Nurse and a family that she had supported. My friend thought that it was something that I would be well suited to, so I listened back to the show, and I was very moved by the interview.”

Mary applied for the position in November 2020, she started her new job as a Night Nurse in the Dublin area. “It was a strange time for everyone due to Covid restrictions, but I haven’t looked back since I began,” she says. “I really like working in the area of end-of-life care. I had previously worked with patients who had Parkinson’s which included supporting patients in their home so that aspect of the work was similar to the Night Nursing Service.”

Night Nurses come to homes where they care for patients at end of life from the hours of 11pm to 7am. “Nighttime is a vulnerable time for families when they are caring for a loved one as there are fewer support services available,” notes Mary. Typically, she gets a handover from the palliative care Home Team who is looking after the patient. She will then call the family at around 7pm. “I’ll check in, introduce myself, see how the patient is doing, and see how the family are doing. I might go a bit earlier if the patient needed something before 11pm so it’s flexible in that regard,” she explains.

Once she arrives. she will check on the patient, and then make a plan for the night – some families will use this opportunity to get some much-needed sleep, but other families might want to stay up with their loved one. “It’s whatever the family wants. We’re just here to help,” Mary says.

“Sometimes families need a little bit of reassurance before they can rest, especially if it’s the first time they’ve met you. It’s nice to go back to the same family on the second night because they know and trust you and they know that you’ll call them if there’s any issue. Trust and communication are vital.”


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"It’s whatever the family wants. We’re just here to help."

Mary Twohill

Mary finds Night Nursing to be very fulfilling. “It’s really rewarding and I feel like I’m giving back.  It can be very sad at times obviously but it is a lovely role and every night is very different because every family is very different,” says.

“I think one of the things that I like is that the family can actually be family. They don’t have to be a carer, they don’t have to be the one to decide ‘do we need to give more medication’ or ‘do we need to turn mum or dad? You’re taking on that role and relieving them of worry, allowing them to just be family.”








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

Roz, Cancer Nurseline

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