By Carol Masshardt
There are many great leaders who hail from South Boston, and Kathleen Curran-Nigl, LPN, who grew up in the Old Colony Housing Development, is among them. Director of the Nurse Assistant/Home Health Aid Training Program at Catholic Charities’ Laboure Center, she uses her considerable talent and decades of experience to train medical workers to care for people at their times of greatest need and to do so in a way that supports stressed families.
The best teachers are those who believe so strongly in what they do that every detail matters and the heart and mind connect naturally. Such is the case with Curran-Nagl who has enough pep to enliven a dreary day, and thoughtfulness to steady those learning the ropes of patients with all sorts of medical needs, including tracheotomies, amputations, and diagnoses across the board.
A graduate of the Youville School of Nursing, and honorable veteran of the Coast Guard, the fourth of six children (“oldest girl”), she worked for twenty-six years in home care and with a long stretch for the Red Cross until she joined Laboure two years ago. Her philosophy is steadfast and has extended throughout her career.
“I never wanted to be about medications, and I started training right out of school and I love to teach and always have. I want to reach out and spread knowledge, and besides, I’m a people person from Southie,” she said explaining it all.
There is no bias in her flowing conversation and a conviction that is faith and life based. “I call my programs ‘All Nations under God.’ I teach people from all over the world and right next door. What matters is quality. I never have had a placement facility, including Brigham and Women’s Mass. General, Beth Israel, Children’s Hospital, or any place call me and say ‘why did you every send us that person? ’No, that doesn’t happen, this is about life and death work,” she said.
Her path was not paved in riches and ease, but she noticed what mattered most. “I joined the Coast Guard at 18, and my mother had to pick up my diploma from Southie High. There was backlash against women then so there was that, but I did Search and Rescue and worked in helicopters and boats,” she said. It doesn’t take much of an imaginative leap to see her as a “Southie girl, “searching and rescuing with the best of them. Her strongest influence was her father, Patrick Curran, who worked in patient transport at what is now Boston Medical Center. “He knew everyone, and was inspiring in how he did his work,” she said. She is equally proud of her adult son, Thomas, and , of course, the many students who have gone on to do the compassionate, careful work she teaches. As determined as she is, Curran-Nagl would be the first to say that systems can make or break a mission driven practice and she credits the manager at the Laboure, Jacqueline Chernoble, with supporting her, and attending to the myriad of requirements that must be satisfied to make and sustain ad high reputation program.
All of this and pages more of stories she joyfully tells lead to the cherished room of mannequins she regards as nearly human and only awaiting her next group of ten diverse students. Any hint of panic, fear and apathy in them will not deter her from shaping inquisitive, capable, and contributing health care providers by the end of the program. She focuses on skill and professionalism in the course and welcomes all who come to care as deeply as their teacher.
“Satisfaction?” she responds in a split second as if in polite amazement that it wouldn’t be obvious. “Listen, I go to sleep at night knowing my people are out there taking care of sick people. It’s a blossom in my heart, you know?” The heartbeat goes on as a new class starts.