History of the Health Policy Program

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The Nursing Health Policy Program was designed and implemented by Drs. Charlene Harrington, Ruth Malone, and Patricia Benner, and coordinated by Mark Crider, who received his doctorate from the program.  The Health Policy MS and PhD programs were first offered in the Fall of 2002.  Outcomes of the process were published in the May 2005 issue of Policy, Politics, and Nursing in their article, “Advanced Nursing Training in Health Policy: Designing and Implementing a New Program”. The following information is taken from this article and can be accessed in full by visiting the Sage Publications website, here.


In l999, the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing faculty at UCSF developed a health policy minor option for nursing master’s degree students. The minor requires three additional health policy courses beyond the required single core health economics and policy course in the master’s program. Because of the strong interest of nursing students in the minor, the faculty considered that a new specialty program would develop nurses with an expertise in health policy. The program was expected to attract students who might have been reluctant to return to school for advanced clinical nursing programs or who, lacking a policy option, might otherwise select public health or public policy programs. Because of lack of available health policy and nursing programs, these individuals may miss the opportunity to gain advanced education in nursing.

After the faculty developed a plan for the curriculum and program courses in 2001, the School of Nursing approved a new specialty in health policy at the master’s and doctoral levels.  The new policy program was established by several core nursing faculty members with a major focus and interest in health policy and health services research, and also included a large number of adjunct and in-residence research faculty in health policy (non-tenure-track and non- state-funded positions) from many disciplines, who had not previously been utilized to teach in the nursing program. In addition, the new dean of the School of Nursing and the faculty identified health policy as a priority area for a new tenure- track faculty position that became available in 2001, allowing the recruitment and hiring of a new faculty member in health policy in 2002. At the same time, the program was able to secure an advanced nursing training grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration to help develop the program as a means of addressing the shortage of nurses with specialty training in health policy.


The UCSF multidisciplinary program in nursing health policy was designed to prepare students to assess the policy dimensions of issues in the clinical practice, teaching, and research environments and to translate nursing practice issues into policy issues. The focus is on preparing students to identify new relevant health policy issues, critically analyze and evaluate laws, regulations, and policies at the institutional, local, state, and national levels impacting individuals, families, and communities. The program examines the history, structure, and process of health policy making in the United States and includes practicing specific skills that will help program graduates in roles in policy-related research and in the various aspects of the policy-making process.

The policy program focuses broadly on areas that are national goals identified in Healthy People 2010 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000) and the national goals of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (2000). The specific objectives for students in the policy program were defined by faculty and are shown below.

The program focuses on key national policy issues and the skills with which to address them. It is designed to provide the tools to understand, analyze, communicate/ advocate, and research policy issues relevant to health and health services, focusing on key substantive areas that have major impact on health and health care delivery.


Health Policy Program Objectives

  • Analyze the history, structure, and process of health policy making in the United States;
  • Assess the policy and ethical dimensions of issues in the clinical practice, teaching, and research environments translate nursing practice issues into policy issues;
  • Identify, critically analyze, and evaluate laws, regulations, and policies at the institutional, local, state, and national levels that impact patients and the practice of nursing;
  • Conduct health services research and policy and economic analyses;
  • Participate in policy and ethical debates and utilize criteria and processes by which policies are developed, implemented, evaluated, changed, and maintained;
  • Participate in the policy-making process, including core knowledge in health services research, policy theory and analysis, economics, ethics, medical sociology, health organizations and professions, and labor issues.

 Graduate Competencies

  • Demonstrate the ability to teach peers and clients about the purpose of health policy;
  • Discuss issues of access to health services and the economic costs of health programs;
  • Interact with cultural relevance and sensitivity in health policy arenas and promote strategies to support patients and their families in having access to appropriate high-quality health care;
  • Provide educational programs in health policy for nursing, medical or allied health staff or the public;
  • Demonstrate skills in policy communication and leadership;
  • Participate in policy-making discussions relevant to health care;
  • Identify and use policy resources appropriately;
  • Discuss the ethical, political and policy issues emerging from the delivery of relevant health care;
  • Explain the importance of distributive justice in access to health care;
  • Discuss strategies for maintaining lifelong learning to remain current and competent in the delivery of health policy nursing care.