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Pat Hungler; BC professor of nursing co-wrote journals

Pat Hungler made many friends among the patients under her care, occasionally whisking them off to a restaurant or a cafe. Pat Hungler made many friends among the patients under her care, occasionally whisking them off to a restaurant or a cafe.
By Emma Stickgold
Globe Correspondent / June 19, 2010

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The blue popsicles that Dr. Bernadette Patricia “Pat’’ Hungler kept in her freezer brought neighborhood children to her doorstep. They stayed for her animated conversation.

Dr. Hungler often talked with her hands and enjoyed entertaining family and friends with stories of times gone by.

By day, she taught at Boston College’s William F. Connell School of Nursing, where she relished teaching others the art and science of nursing. She then worked the graveyard shift at a nursing home, because she could not imagine not working with patients one-on-one.

The longtime Needham resident died of heart failure June 10 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She was 79.

As an associate professor at the nursing school, “she had a great interest in the student, above and beyond the classroom,’’ former colleague Pat Harrington said. “She was a good teacher. I think she was careful about how she laid things out, because that could be a very complex field.’’

But at the Hamilton House Nursing Home in Needham, the registered nurse made many friends among the patients under her care, occasionally whisking them off to a restaurant or a cafe after hours. She often took young relatives to visit nursing home patients, people she considered treasure troves of information and wisdom.

“She got her enjoyment out of being able to make people feel better,’’ said her brother Chuck, of Manchester, N.H.

Dr. Hungler was born in Cambridge, but her family moved early to Pennsylvania. Offering to help others was a common thread in her life. Her brother recalled that on one occasion, he was racing to finish a paper for a high school assignment, and as she was the faster typist, she offered to let him dictate it to her, a task that required staying up for the better part of the night.

She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Georgetown University in 1954, followed by master’s degrees from Northeastern University and Boston College in 1959 and 1975. She received a doctorate in educational research evaluation and measurement from Boston College in 1985.

Early in her career, she worked in Boston City Hospital’s emergency room. “It was quite an experience,’’ her brother said. “You got a better understanding of what goes on in the world.’’

She landed a job as an instructor at BC’s School of Nursing in 1960, teaching research methods and analyzing patient care. In 1964, she was promoted to assistant professor, and in 1969 she became associate professor.

“She was a very reliable person,’’ Harrington said. “If other people couldn’t make it to class because of one reason or another, she would fill in.’’

Because only a limited selection of books were written on the subject, she collaborated with Denise Polit to produce several publications for people in the nursing field, including instructor manuals and student guides, which were translated into several languages.

She retired from BC in 1996, but stayed active in nursing, serving on the Nursing Advisory Committee at Regis College. She enjoyed being part of the Lahey Clinic Research Council when it was seeking recognition for excellence in nursing care from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Dr. Hungler felt strongly that the clinic deserved the honor, and in August 2009 the council recognized the hospital, placing it among a handful of Massachusetts hospitals to earn the honor.

“She was a very compassionate person, and she believed in nursing care and the hands-on nature of it,’’ her brother said.

In addition to her brother, Dr. Hungler leaves a sister, Jane Hungler Baker of Reston, Va., and many nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass has been celebrated.

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