Her name is Maria Henriqueta Figueiredo and she was considered one of the “remarkable women” of the National Health Service ”, in the celebrations of the 40 years of the NHS. She is the author of the Dynamic Model of Family Assessment and Intervention, a kind of “bible” for family nurses. She combines her clinical experience as a nurse with her passion for teaching and research at CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research / Nursing School of Porto (ESEP), the educational institution where she works as Coordinating Professor. As a person, she is curious and restless by nature and always ready to learn more. Her son is her greatest inspiration.
But let us go back to the beginning of everything, to the origins. Maria Henriqueta Figueiredo was born in 1964, in Cartaxo, district of Santarém. She has an unmistakable Ribatejo accent. At school, she liked everything. She decided to study to become a mathematician, but a year later she enrolled at the Nursing School of Santarém. For a while, she balanced both programs, until Nursing won. The internship in Community Intervention was decisive for the decision.
She started working in 1988, the same year that, interestingly, there was the integration of Nursing in Polytechnic Education. She worked as a family nurse for 13 years at the Torres Novas Health Center. “It was the time during which I learned the most. I learned what it is to be a person, I learned to accept the difference and I learned that the most important thing is to be able to listen and to help others in their decision making. I was close in times of happiness, like the birth of a child, but also in times of sadness and suffering.”
In 1998, she completed her studies as Specialist in Community Nursing at the Nursing School of Santarém, which awarded her a degree of licentiate.
In 1999, she applied to two master’s programs, in Porto, one in Nursing and the other in Social Psychology, which she eventually chose, and during which she developed research on the representation of diseases and their effect on family practices, focusing on the role of gender and the issue of power within the family.
“As a nurse, I had always considered that, in addition to empirical learning, the development of knowledge was essential and I tried to apply it in the clinical context. I wanted to help the families I knew so well more effectively and pass this knowledge on to colleagues, contributing to health care and the transformation of the nurse’s image, especially because, when I finished my studies, Nursing was not yet integrated into University education. The representation that other professionals had, much more than patients, was that of nurses being under the supervision of doctors, which did not make sense”, she recalls.
In 2000, she moved to Porto, after requesting a transfer as a specialist nurse in Community Nursing. She worked at the health centers of Famalicão and Campanhã, where she visited the Bairro do Cerco, a very problematic neighborhood at the time. “It was a very enriching experience”, she considers, in retrospect.
In 2001, she joined the full-time teaching career in higher education at the Nursing School of Porto Cidade do Porto – which would later merge into the current Nursing School of Porto (ESEP)- with a special focus on the area of Family Health. “I didn’t consider it a rupture, but a continuity. I spent a long time in the clinical context”, she explains.
She received her doctorate in 2010 from the University of Porto. “I noticed that there was a very big discrepancy between what nurses thought was important about caring for families, what they said they did and what they recorded. It was then that (her) Dynamic Model of Family Assessment and Intervention emerged, which would become part of the syllabuses of undergraduate and master’s programs in Nursing and postgraduate courses in Family Health Nursing. In 2011, this Model was adopted by the Order of Nurses, as a theoretical and operational reference in Family Health Nursing. Since then, the model has internationalized, as part of the recommendations of IFNA – International Family Nursing Association.
Her objective was clear: “I wanted the Dynamic Model to make sense to nurses and to be useful for their practice and for their patients, families and individuals. The appropriation of the Model by the nurses is effective. They are themselves trainers on the Model. That makes me very proud! Knowledge only makes sense when it is appropriated by whoever is going to use it”.
Maria Henriqueta Figueiredo would join the support group for the Bureau of the College of the Community Nursing Specialty, as an expert in Family Health Nursing and coordinator of the working group responsible for the proposal of a profile of specific skills of nurses specializing in Family Health Nursing, Training Program and quality standards for the specialty. She was also a representative of Portugal in the International Nurses Council (ICN) in the area of Family Health.
She was a member of the initial group of ESEP that joined CINTESIS with the objective of “enhancing human resources as researchers, through sharing, learning and new visions”. At the time, the integration in CINTESIS “brought about a change that allowed us to go beyond our vision as researchers only at ESEP, which was more closed and more monodisciplinary. I have promoted that the researchers of the project are integrated researchers of CINTESIS. I am very proud of this and I know that they are also proud to belong to a center that recognizes nurses as peers. This recognition motivates us to continue. CINTESIS is part of our life”.
As an integrated researcher of the NursID group, from CINTESIS/ESEP, she leads the project “MDAIF: A transformative action in Primary Health Care”, which aims at the development of new knowledge and new practices in Family Health Nursing. In total, there are more than 80 researchers, most of whom are from CINTESIS. Among the many lines of study, there are, for example, the impact of using the MDAIF, as a benchmark for nurses’ decision-making, on health gains for families, factors that interfere in the transfer of knowledge to practice, the epidemiological profile single-parent families, safe family nurses, family literacy and spirituality.
She is president of the Portuguese Society of Family Health Nursing, which she founded in 2016, and which has more than 100 members, two congresses held and a set of partnerships signed. “The goal is to optimize responses to families. SPESF is available to collaborate with the Order of Nurses and the Ministry of Health, in the new challenges for Family Health Nursing
Along with the research she develops at CINTESIS and her teaching career at ESEP, Maria Henriqueta Figueiredo does not stop. In 2018, she completed a post-doctorate program in Nursing, at the University of Rovira i Virgili, in Tarragona, Spain, with which she has collaborated. She is a family therapist accredited by the Portuguese Society of Family Therapy. She holds the “practitioner” certificate in Neurolinguistic Programming, the international certification in Coaching and a postgraduate degree in Hypnosis and Other Altered States of Consciousness at the Clinic. She completed postgraduate studies in Couple Therapy and in Clinical Sexology. She is currently studying a postgraduate program in Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapies. In the future, she would like to do training in Family Law.
She collaborates with other higher education institutions across the country and trains nurses in their organizational contexts. She is the author of the book “Dynamic Model of Family Assessment and Intervention: A collaborative approach in Family Nursing”, published in 2012 by Lusociência. She also has close to 200 published works.
In 2019, she was honored as one of the 40 notable women of 40 years of the National Health Service (SNS), in a ceremony organized by the Portuguese Association for Hospital Development – APDH, sponsored by the President of the Republic.
“I feel proud of the perseverance, because I did not give up because this path has not always been facilitated, it has had some constraints. On the other hand, this was only possible by all who considered that Family Nursing was important for the development of health care and that the Dynamic Model was useful, both in the construction of new knowledge in Nursing and as a reference for taking of nurses’ clinical decision. I thank everyone for their honor and privilege”, she concludes.
As a principal investigator, I have been very focused on the development and affirmation of the research project, especially with the promotion of studies and publications. Now, the time has come to move on to funding proposals. This is my goal for 2020. There are many researchers who are deeply motivated, but if we have funding, we can do more, with greater commitment and more results. We have grown so much that we have to see not only the whole, but also the parts, and understand which studies are most capable of advancing.
This year will also be crucial for the consolidation of Family Health Nursing, either due to the ongoing process of certification of individual competences for the award of the title of specialists or by the opening of new study programs in higher education institutions.
I want to be able to continue contributing to the consolidation of Family Health Nursing, maintaining my perseverance and scientific curiosity. I hope that the legislation will be changed and that nursing will be integrated into university education. Nursing has already proved that its place is in university education!
I hope to be as proud of ESEP as I am today.
Life Beyond Teaching and Research
I listen to music even when I’m working, especially electronic music, trance, like David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren and Paul Van Dky, which combines predictability, homogeneity and harmony. I also like minimalist music by Win Mertens. I like Pop Art and Lady Gaga. I read many technical books and students’ theses (laughs). I really like poetry because it is metaphorical. I like Herberto Hélder, Al Berto, António Ramos Rosa, Eugénio de Andrade, Maria Teresa Horta, among many others. If I had more time, I would like to go to the cinema more. The film I most enjoyed watching in recent years was “Green Book”. If I could, I would also watch more TV shows. I really enjoyed “Handmaid’s Tale” and Game of Thrones.
In addition to the family, I have a large network of friends and I want to keep it because I feel very privileged. That’s what gives life meaning!