Nursing prof marks 50 years at Dal: 'It's totally different now'

- August 17, 2023

Dr. Jean Hughes has helped build a collaborative approach to health education over her five decades at Dal. (Provided photo)
Dr. Jean Hughes has helped build a collaborative approach to health education over her five decades at Dal. (Provided photo)

After 50 years of service in the Faculty of Health, Dr. Jean Hughes is most excited by how much the School of Nursing has grown. When she started working at Dal, the school’s only program offering was the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN).

Today, the school offers a bachelor’s program, three master’s programs, and one PhD program.

“When I look around in our school, we’ve got so many areas of research that students can study, it’s totally different now,” she says.

Dr. Hughes began teaching at Dal a few years after graduating from the Faculty of Health’s BScN program. She remained a faculty member in the Faculty throughout the rest of her post-secondary education, including a Master’s in Psychiatric Nursing at Boston University and a PhD in Nursing at McGill University.

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Intreprofessional innovator

As Dal’s School of Nursing grew, Dr. Hughes worked to create various interprofessional education (IPE) opportunities for students across the Faculty of Health.

Long before the Collaborative Health Education Building (CHEB) was constructed, Dr. Hughes and various faculty members created videotapes demonstrating collaborative patient-centered and interprofessional interactions for students. They equipped trained actors to perform different scenarios, including mental health dilemmas, student/faculty conflicts, grieving, anger, job interviews, post-abortion home visits with patients, and more.

To help ensure that Faculty of Health students learn the strengths of different health disciplines, Dr. Hughes is one of the supervisors in the interprofessional education programs involving students from the Faculty of Health, medicine, and dentistry. These collaborations focus on a range of health concerns and aid students to develop patient-centered interactions and empathy skills along with enhanced understandings of what each discipline offers, ultimately aiding them in future professional interactions.

“It’s not until you work together that you start to realize the different strengths of your own, and other, disciplines. We need to be more open-minded and holistic in our approach to care,” she says.

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A commitment to better mental health education

Despite her satisfaction at seeing more mental health education being integrated into core BScN curriculums across the country, Dr. Hughes believes that master’s-level nursing programs need to incorporate more mental health education than what is currently being offered.

To remedy this, she has recently developed a program with five master’s-level nursing courses in collaboration with Charlene Murphy, manager of Rural Services and Community Supports — Mental Health and Addictions — Eastern Zone at Nova Scotia Health Authority.

While the program is still going through the approval process, Dr. Hughes will be teaching one course during this upcoming winter semester.

“Dr. Jean Hughes’ positive outlook and support for faculty and students is infectious. Numerous graduate students have benefited from her supervision, to complete their own research that has also impacted the health care system,” says Dr. Megan Aston, professor in the School of Nursing, associate director for Research and International Affairs and director of the Centre for Transformative Nursing and Health Research (CTNHR).


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