Dr. Monica Hughes
- What is your role at CHP, and how long have you worked here?
I am a Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, and I have worked in this role 3 years. I also worked in the school as an adjunct prior to joining as full-time faculty.
- Could you tell us about your research interests and why you are passionate about them?
I have worked in several different roles in public health at the state level. In these roles, I had the opportunity to become extremely familiar with the roles nurses play in public health and in the health of populations and communities. As I have seen the diminishing of the public health nursing workforce over decades, and the consequent impact on population health, I have felt more and more driven to understand what a prepared and competent public health nursing workforce looks like, how their innovations promote and propel a culture of health, and how nurses acting as leaders and advocates within the community results in community empowerment and change. I want to understand and improve diversity in nursing and the impact on improved diversity on community health engagement. I have also long been interested in inventive settings and work towards health promotion, including the use of community health workers and partnerships with faith entities. I do nonprofit work to educate nurses and community health workers to consider, strengthen, and implement faith community health ministries. As a result of these and other experiences, my research interests include faith entities as partners in community health; nursing workforce development; nursing innovation in cultures of health; leadership and advocacy as attributes of nursing in communities; and community health workers as partners for a culture of health.
- What are some potential applications of your research, and what holds promise for patients?
New nurse graduates have a tremendous potential to contribute to healthy populations and transform health care delivery. There is a move towards a more thorough incorporation of population health principles and community practice preparation in nursing education. At the same time, the public health nursing (PHN) workforce needs expansion and improved readiness to meet the demands of evolving population health needs, care in communities, and new disease threats, as evidenced by COVID-19 and the challenges of providing adequate response and education to affected populations. Understanding groundbreaking methods for entry to practice competency can help inform the preparation of graduate nurses. It is also so important to apply and evaluate effective solutions to address issues of disparity by race, ethnicity and sex for students coming into and successfully graduating from nursing programs.
Nurses are the most trusted profession, and when nurses can speak knowledgeably to patients through education and health promotion, people’s health outcomes and behaviors are changed for the better. There are so many innovative ways to reach populations today, through app-based learning, social media, texting, and other ways that have not been the standard methods of reaching patients. It is exciting to explore these methods and evaluate their impact on behavior change. As we better understand how to reach and teach people where they are and empower populations and communities to engage in the issues that impact their health, we can not only impact individual lives, but also improve health equity and address social determinants of health.
- Could you tell us about your recent grant applications and how they will advance your area of research?
I have recently been part of a team applying for a grant to promote diversity in healthcare professional education, through outreach and education to diverse middle and high school students and their teachers. This grant would provide health science speakers for students and community members, professional development for teachers, and science career engagement opportunities for students (classroom activities, informal learning opportunities, online learning, and intensive summer institute experiences). These opportunities will not only benefit the project participants but will ultimately contribute to a more robust and diverse workforce in the health science fields in which certain demographic groups have traditionally been underrepresented and will help us evaluate what strategies work to build a more diverse healthcare workforce.
Two additional grants I am working on seek to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance in populations at risk for vaccine hesitancy, including nursing students, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. As we implement strategies to effectively educate healthcare professionals to not only promote effective use of vaccine, but also to exemplify vaccine trust in their own behavior by becoming vaccinated, we will have a better understanding of what works to build healthcare professionals’ trust in and use of evidence-based practice. We will also understand better what kinds of interventions can get hard-to-reach populations to promote healthy behaviors.
Finally, I am working on a grant that will innovate achievement of public health nursing competency for new graduates using serious gaming. This project will create and implement an app-based, first-person virtual game to instill new graduate readiness to enter public health nursing practices. Students will navigate through population and public health scenarios and make clinical judgements and decisions, which will then unfold to outcomes for improvement or worsening of the condition that precipitated the interaction with the provider. This will enable us to understand the efficacy of the expanded use of virtual simulation through gaming, and how it impacts new nurse graduate competencies and readiness to practice.
- Could you describe your vision for the research work you are leading at CHP?
I envision a diverse group of new graduates entering a diverse array of nursing specialties, especially in community and public health settings. I also envision nursing students who are competent to promote health in underserved populations and who are making meaningful contributions to our community’s health, and that the interventions that achieve these outcomes become embedded in the recruitment, development, and education of nursing students.
- What is the best part about being a scholar at the College of Health Professions at Texas State University?
I love the opportunity to work with other professionals, both in other schools and colleges and within the School of Nursing. It is so much fun to meet and work with new faculty, and learn from others’ expertise, experience, and talents. We have great support for the grant application process here, which I appreciate greatly.
- Do you have any advice for faculty considering research and grantsmanship at CHP?
If you find a grant that aligns with your work, apply! Rosaura Aguirre, our awesome research coordinator, is a huge help in finding grant opportunities and focusing the work. If you have specific research interests, let Rosaura know and she will keep an eye out for grants that fit. ORSP is also a great resource for help through the process. I think it would be fitting for all of us to be more vocal about what we are interested in, both in research and grantsmanship, since there is likely to be someone else who is interested, too, and who would love to work in partnership. As Dr. Rohde loves to say, “Teamwork makes the dream work” – and it’s true!
- What is one thing not on your CV that you would like us to know?
I am a 6th generation Austinite.
- What are your hobbies and interests (other than making CHP great)?
I really love to read. Sewing clothing is one of my favorite hobbies (although I very rarely get to do it), and I especially love making period costumes.