When she was young, Lolita (Lola) Roland, RN, CARN, wanted to be a dancer, but in the eighth grade, a preacher told her, “God has something better for you.” She took his message to heart.

Lola has been caring for patients with substance use disorders since long before the opioid epidemic came into the national spotlight. After 25 years as a nurse, she turned her focus to the specialty area of addictions, where she has devoted herself for the past 20 years. Today, as an office-based addiction treatment nurse care manager at  Cambridge Health Alliance, she works collaboratively and compassionately with the entire spectrum of patients and colleagues in a way that only she can.

Substance use disorder patients are often alone in their lives, many having suffered from relapses and having histories of incarceration and homelessness. Lola says that 98 percent of the patients she sees have suffered some kind of trauma in their lives. Stigma and judgment are major factors impacting treatment of their addiction. Her ability to bring a kind heart and an open mind, and express empathy without having people feel judged, are at the very foundation of success for so many of her patients.

“Lola understands that addiction is a complex disease. For those who struggle, who slip, who fail, Lola is always there – never abandoning them, always welcoming them, always trying to find ways to keep them alive.”

She has a master’s degree in pastoral theology and is known for her deep understanding of and respect and compassion for her patients in their incredible struggles with addiction. She was central to establishing an office-based opioid treatment (OBOT) program, which has been used as a model for others to emulate.

She is known for her strength and resilience, the latter of which is a direct result of the mindful presence and the deep compassion for her patients that she brings to her work day-in and day-out.

Lola is described as compassionate, caring, respectful and tough. She readily admits that there are absolutely challenges to caring for this population and she is able to dole out the tough love when it is needed. She finds herself troubled especially when she knows a patient is lying to her, but recognizes this is part of the disease. “They’re protecting their best friend,” she says.

One colleague says of her, “She is able to meet people where they are at, with respect and without judgment. Her patients know right away that Lola is on their side and wants them to do well.”

Says another, “Lola understands that addiction is a complex disease. For those who struggle, who slip, who fail, Lola is always there – never abandoning them, always welcoming them, always trying to find ways to keep them alive.”