Frances was the CEO of the International Council of Nursing (ICN) in Geneva, Switzerland from 2106-2018. She was the first nurse to be awarded the Harkness Fellowship in Health Care Policy (US equivalent of Rhode Scholar) from the Commonwealth Fund in New York.
Frances served as the Commandant Colonel for the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corp for seven years, providing strategic nursing leadership to the New Zealand Army. From 1998 – 2004 Frances held the position, Chief Nurse for New Zealand, for 8 years and during this time played a major leadership role in health care policy and nursing. Frances was instrumental in the development of government policy around psychosocial emergency response, nurse prescribing, primary healthcare, health line and rural schemes, mental health and nurse practitioners. In 2004 Frances was appointed as the first Professor of Nursing at Auckland University, Chair of Mental Health Nursing and established the centre for mental health policy, research and service development.
From 2005 through to 2011 Frances worked for the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the Facilitator for the Pacific Island Mental Health Network (PIMHNet). During this time, she worked with 16 Pacific Island governments, supporting them to develop policy and plans to improve mental health. During this time, she also held part time positions in the New Zealand Ministry of Health – as principal consultant and deputy Director of Mental Health for New Zealand. From 2012- 2016 Frances was appointed as the Chief Nursing and Midwifery officer for Queensland Health. During this time she was successful in advancing the role of nursing and midwifery, through her strong policy and research approach which resulted in the 2015 incoming government allocating $500m to nursing and midwifery.
Through her consultancy she has worked for non-government organisations (NGOs) in the areas of disability and service evaluation and mental health. She held part time position as Executive Officer in a national disability group and established an NGO providing community residential support to those with complex mental illness.
Dr. Hughes is an established scholar and has an extensive publication record, publishing her first book in 2007 “Have Your Say – How to Influence Public Policy”. Her scholarship and research interests are mental health, health policy and nursing. Dr. Hughes has a BA, MA and Doctorate in Nursing and was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006 for her Services to Mental Health.
In 2011, Frances received a Fulbright Senior Scholarship followed by a Distinguished Alumni Service Award from Massey University in New Zealand in 2013. In 2016 she received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence and the Faculty Alumni award from the University of Technology Sydney. She has served and chaired boards both nationally, within Australia and USA. She currently is on NGO boards in Rwanda, New Zealand and Queensland, Australia. In 2020, Dr. Hughes received the second highest order in the New Zealand New Years Honours awarded by the Queen and the New Zealand Government. She was made a Companion of the New Zealand order of Merit for services to mental health and nursing.