From the perspective of a founding dean: The story of an independent HSON

​​​​Sally Abou Melhem , ​Office of Communications, communications@aub.edu.lb​

AUB's school of nursing is the first nursing school in the region. Since it was established in 1905, the school has gone through multiple phases of transformation to become what it is today: the Hariri School of Nursing (HSON), an independent faculty with a mission to promote and maintain the highest educational standards of excellence, integrity, and professionalism in nursing. Founding HSON Dean Huda Abu-Saad Huijer, spoke to us about the story of HSON; the milestones and challenges that were crossed and overcome during her years as the faculty's director and then dean; as well as her vision for the future of the faculty.

A brief history

“The early history of AUB's nursing school is dominated by the hard work and dedication of two extraordinary women: Mary Bliss Dale and Jane Elizabeth Van Zandt," said Huijer. “It was on October 6, 1905 that the first full school year began. The inaugural class of three students (two Armenians and one Syrian) graduated in 1908. The original program of instruction lasted three years and consisted mostly of hands-on training. Van Zandt used her own bedroom as a classroom."​

At the very beginning, the school offered a certificate course in nursing with basic admissions standards to encourage students to enroll. This course was replaced with a program leading to a diploma in nursing in 1925. The school's admission standards were gradually raised over the years.

“Another significant development in the 1920s is the construction of a facility for the nursing school—Dale Home—in 1926. The new building included living quarters for nursing students, classrooms, and offices," added Huijer.

In 1936, a five-year program was established leading to the degree of bachelor of science in nursing. In 1964, it was replaced by a four-year program. A two-year associate degree in the nursing program was established in 1980 and discontinued in 1984.

In 2003, Dr. Huda Abu-Saad Huijer was appointed director of the school of nursing. Previously, Huijer graduated from AUB and was professor, head of nursing science, and director of the Center for Nursing Research at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.

The Registered Nurse-Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program was reactivated and launched in 2003, and a master of science in nursing program (MSN) was launched shortly thereafter, in 2004. A PhD in nursing science program was launched in 2018.

In September 2018, the Hariri School of Nursing attained independent status, becoming AUB's seventh faculty. In this occasion, Huijer stated, “AUB has recognized the importance of nursing by making its school of nursing independent, with a dean. This is important for our current faculty and students, but also for recruiting outstanding students and scholars to study and work here."

The achievements

When asked about the most important HSON achievements during her years as school director and then dean, Huijer answered, “making the school globally visible , by achieving accreditation in 2007 and reaccreditation in 2012, by having state-of-the-art undergraduate, and graduate academic programs, and excelling in nursing research nationally and regionally. "

During the academic year 2006-07, HSON received a site visit by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). “The CCNE evaluation report was very positive and reported that the school of nursing had met all standards for BSN and MSN accreditation," explained Huijer. The CCNE Board granted the BSN and MSN programs of the school of nursing unconditional accreditation for a five-year term, which is the maximum term given by CCNE for initial accreditation. “The AUB school of nursing became the first school of nursing outside US territories to be accredited by CCNE; an important achievement and another milestone for AUB and its school of nursing."

One of HSON's significant achievements, Huijer added, is the launching of the faculty's PhD program in Nursing Science, which is unique in the region. It is offered in close collaboration with the faculties of medicine and health sciences at AUB, and with international partners, namely Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan Schools of Nursing.

Other key achievements include the new faculty building, the state-of-the-art simulation facility, and the ten million dollar gift received from Prime Minister Saad Hariri to name the Hariri School of Nursing Building and to establish several endowed funds for student scholarships and endowed chairs at the school.

The challenges

“We were able to attract a large number of faculty members who hold a PhD," Huijer said. She continued that the recruitment of top notch, high quality, and research-active faculty has been a major challenge that was overcome. HSON currently has 25 full time faculty members, including 17 PhD holders and 2 PhD candidates, which according to Huijer, is the highest number of faculty members who hold a PHD in any nursing school in the country. “What remains a challenge is to continue being able to recruit seasoned nurse researchers with track records of research funding," Huijer explained.

In terms of students, “we have achieved a great deal in moving the undergraduate student numbers from 20-30 to around 65-70 cohorts per year. But the major challenge is to find scholarship funds," Huijer said. She added that the faculty has been able to provide 60% scholarships for a good number of HSON students so far, but is aiming to increase the number of scholarships and to raise this percentage to 100% for a few. “More scholarships and endowment funds are still needed to attract high-quality students to study nursing at AUB in order to meet the nursing workforce needs of AUBMC and of Lebanon," said Huijer.

A message to the future generations of HSON

“Nursing provides immense opportunities," Huijer said. “Every year when I welcome the new students coming to this school I tell them that nursing provides them with a passport to wherever they want to go. They actually become the ambassadors of the university and the school, but also of their own country." She added that nursing gives opportunities, not only for further education and for immediate employment in a variety of settings, but also to see the world.

Huijer added that the country needs nurses, as there is an evident shortage. “There is no way that the healthcare system can function without qualified nurses. Physicians can do so much, but alone they cannot do very much. Nurses are their partners in providing high quality health care."

What's next?

HSON has been making an effort towards providing online programs. “We have been working very hard to provide some of our graduate courses in the online format so that we attract more students from the region and the world," said Huijer. “This will be the next challenge for the coming year."

At the graduate level, HSON is currently finalizing new online/hybrid MSN tracks in Nursing Administration and Management, and Nursing Education. The Nursing Administration and Management program was recently approved by the Senate. Both programs are expected to begin in 2020 and to attract a large number of international students.

At the undergraduate level, plans to launch a TS-BSN (Superior Technician - Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program to a few eligible technical degree programs is being finalized. The program, which will be offered at AUB's Advancing Research Enabling Communities (AREC) Center in the Beqaa, will target TS graduates in Lebanon who can meet AUB's admissions requirements.

Huijer also spoke about the emphasis that the faculty has been putting on research recently, and about the center for nursing research that is ready to be launched, once the required funds are available. She added that HSON has the highest number of PhD-credentialed nursing faculty in Lebanon, the highest number of research projects, and the highest publication rate in nursing in Lebanon, and one of the highest in the region. This trend is expected to grow in the future as HSON continues placing research as a high priority by recruiting highly credentialed and research active faculty as well as the endowed chair to lead the Center for Nursing Research.

“I have been honored to lead these strategic developments and to contribute to these historic milestones of the school," added Huijer.