Caring for the dying a tough but rewarding job

Hilary Hutchinson who is a Marie Curie nurse.

Hilary Hutchinson who is a Marie Curie nurse.

EVERY year Marie Curie Cancer Care have their daffodil appeal in March, which raises vital funds so Marie Curie nurses throughout Northern Ireland can care for the terminally ill, giving patients a chance to die at home with their families and loved ones.

Hilary Hutchinson, who lives in Killadeas, is one of the 17 registered nurses working with Marie Curie in the Western Trust area and thanks to the generosity of the public through the annual daffodil appeal she is able to continue her work with patients and their families in and around Fermanagh.


Hilary has been a Marie Curie nurse for the past 19 years and before that was a registered nurse although she took a break from nursing to bring up her four children before returning to nursing to care for the dying.

“I wanted to do something to help within the community, and I’ve always had a desire to work with people. It’s a very rewarding job.”

Hilary explains that she knew about the work of Marie Curie Cancer Care and thought this type of nursing would suit her well.

“We can’t improve quantity of life, but we can improve patient’s quality of life” said Hilary.

“Most patients want a peaceful, dignified death and want to die in their own homes. We are here to provide a service tailored to the patient’s needs.”

A common misconception is that Marie Curie nurses only care for cancer patients when in fact they also provide nursing care for other terminally ill patients including those with conditions such as motor neurone disease, brain tumours and MS.

“Our patients are at end stage and we are there to try and make them as comfortable and pain free as possible.”


Marie Curie nurses like Hilary provide practical nursing care and emotional support  to the families of the patients, often giving the families much needed respite.

“We spend the night with patients allowing families the chance to go to bed, feeling secure there is someone professional in their house.

‘When a loved one is dying it’s a stressful time” continues Hilary who admits her job can be emotionally demanding.

“It would affect you more if someone is dying before their time. In such situations you cope by knowing you are offering support to the families.

“Marie Curie provides a great service keeping patients who require palliative care out of hospital and in their home.

Hilary said before they come in families know the prognosis is not good, and a patient will only have maybe have only days or weeks to go.

“Sometimes families can be reluctant to get the Marie Curie nurse into their homes,” she adds.

Marie Curie nurses can be accessed through your local GP and the district nurse.

This year almost £33,000 was raised by the annual daffodil appeal in Western Trust area – with £133,000 raised across he North, and Hilary says a word of thanks to all who donated to this.

“The Fermanagh public are very generous every year to this appeal,” said Hilary.

There are 160 Marie Curie staff across Northern Ireland, of whom 76 are registered nurses and the remainder senior health care assistants.

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