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Year of the Nurse and Midwife: Blending nursing and faith at Regina Cleri

Director of Clinical Services Laurine Kohler speaks with Msr. Paul Ryan at Regina Cleri. Courtesy photo

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Marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the World Health Organization has proclaimed 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Following is one of an occasional series of articles highlighting the work of nurses in the Archdiocese of Boston.

BOSTON -- "My motto is 'you can never be too kind and never wash your hands too much,'" Laurine Kohler said March 11.

Kohler, who is the director of clinical services at Regina Cleri, has been a nurse since 1979. Her passions are geriatrics and oncology, though she also has experience in homecare and research. She is also certified as a parish nurse.

One of the greatest influences in Kohler's career was seeing the example of her mother caring for her partially paralyzed father for 20 years. This showed her "the importance of giving good care."

"She kept him moving and active so that he could live a life full of joy despite being handicapped," Kohler said.

Kohler earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Eastern Michigan University and a master's degree in business administration from Bentley University. She came to work at Regina Cleri, the Archdiocese of Boston's retirement home for priests, a little over a decade ago.

"Coming here kind of blended my nursing with my faith," she said in a March 9 interview.

Regina Cleri is home to about 60 retired priests. Kohler leads a team of 25, including registered nurses and direct care aides.

"We have been able to develop as a nursing team here at Regina Cleri in the 10 years that I've been here. And I really feel we've had strong management support," Kohler said.

She said director Stephen Gust, executive director Joe D'Arrigo, and Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley have been "great in supporting us."

"They really have given us the ability to be creative in the care that we give. And that's exciting. You don't always have that," Kohler said.

Regina Cleri provides 24-hour nursing, and visiting organizations come to provide rehabilitation services, hospice care, and palliative care.

"We're able to provide the whole continuum," Kohler said.

Regina Cleri also offers respite care for active priests recovering from surgery or illness before they resume work.

"I think that's a real benefit to the active priests, to be able to have that available to them," Kohler said.

Regina Cleri is located in Boston's West End, close to Massachusetts General Hospital. All clinical services -- dentists, eye doctors, medical doctors and emergency rooms -- can be found nearby.

Kohler said her team has developed strong relationships with hospitals and physicians in the area.

"My team is passionate in giving the best individualized care for the residents with a strong focus on advocacy within the health care system," Kohler said.

Nurses are available to accompany residents to physician appointments and provide direct information about their care. If a resident is hospitalized, Kohler said, she will visit him and check in with the clinical team and case managers.

"We like it because we get direct feedback on what we need to do to optimize care for the resident," Kohler said.

She said they want the residents to be "as independent as possible."

"Our challenge is to demonstrate to them how the clinical team can enhance and improve their health by providing our expertise in navigating the complicated health care system -- therefore keeping them independent and healthier!" Kohler said.

Regina Cleri's staff provides spiritual care in addition to physical care. A group of residents on the Spiritual Life Committee help organize activities to enhance the residents' spiritual life. These include daily Mass, daily rosary, and retreats.

Kohler said everyone she works with "feels very loyal to the priests."

"I feel very blessed and honored to care for these priests who have given so much to others in their ministries for so many years of their lives," she said.

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